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n  the  Foot^ 

of 

The  Brontes 


Mrs.  Ellis  H.Chadwick 


9-47 


Photo  by} 


[Emery   Walker. 


Alleged  portrait  of  Charlotte  Bronte. 


PRINTED  BY  SIR  ISAAC  PITMAN 
&  SONS,  LTD.,  LONDON,  BATH, 
AND  NEW  YORK  1914 


To  THE.  MEMORY 

OF   MY   DAUGHTER, 

ELSIE  MILLER  CHADWICK, 

WHOSE  BRIEF  LIFE  WAS  SPENT 

IN  HAWORTH. 


PREFACE 

MY  first  copy  of  Mrs.  Gaskell's  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte  was 
sent  to  me  from  Ha  worth,  and  some  years  afterwards  fate 
decreed  that  I  should  go  to  live  on  the  edge  of  the  glorious 
moors,  within  bowshot  of  the  Ha  worth  vicarage.  It  mattered 
not  to  me  that  Mrs.  Gaskell  had  described  the  moorland 
village  as  bleak,  wild,  and  desolate  ;  it  was  the  home  of  the 
Brontes,  and  therein  lay  its  charm. 

After  living  in  Haworth  for  nearly  two  years,  I  had  the 
good  fortune  to  reside  for  the  next  six  years  in  two  other 
districts  closely  associated  with  the  Brontes,  on  the  borders 
of  the  Shirley  country,  and  within  a  pleasant  walk  of  Wood- 
house  Grove.  In  those  days — now  nearly  thirty  years  ago — 
there  were  many  who  had  known  the  famous  family  at  the 
Haworth  parsonage,  including  Dr.  Ingham,  the  medical 
adviser  to  the  Brontes  ;  the  sexton's  family  ;  and  Mr.  Wood, 
the  village  carpenter,  who  never  failed  to  tell  visitors  that 
he  made  all  the  coffins  for  the  Bronte  family  except  Anne's. 
Since  those  days,  I  have  met  many,  in  different  parts  of 
England  as  well  as  in  Brussels,  who  knew  Charlotte  and  Emily 
Bronte. 

When  opportunities  offered  I  made  repeated  pilgrimages  to 
every  Bronte  shrine,  both  in  England  and  abroad.  To  be  a 
devotee  of  the  Brontes  is  to  find  an  Open  Sesame  wherever 
true  literature  is  valued,  and  it  is  one  of  the  pleasantest  recol- 
lections of  my  life  to  remember  that  in  no  single  instance  have 
I  met  with  a  refusal  when  seeking  permission  to  see  the  interiors 
of  houses  and  schools  with  which  the  Brontes  have  been  con- 
nected. It  is  impossible  to  adequately  acknowledge  the  uni- 
form kindness  which,  as  a  stranger,  I  have  received.  Several 
who  have  so  willingly  helped  me  have  passed  away  during 
the  writing  of  this  book  :  Miss  F.  Wheelwright,  of  Kensington  ; 
Mrs.  Ratcliffe,  of  Haworth  ;  and  M.  1'Abbe  Richardson,  of 
Brussels. 

My  thanks  are  due  to  Mr.  Clement  K.  Shorter  and  Messrs. 


vi  PREFACE 

Hodder  and  Stoughton  for  kind  permission  to  quote  from  The 
Brontes  :  Life  and  Letters  and  The  Complete  Poems  of  Emily 
Bronte.  In  the  study  of  these  works  I  have  found  a  wealth  of 
information  which  has  enabled  me  to  throw  new  light  on  several 
controversial  problems  connected  with  the  Brontes. 

I  am  also  indebted  to  the  Rev.  T.  W.  Story,  M.A.,  of 
Haworth  ;  Mr.  W.  Scruton,  of  Bradford  ;  and  Mr.  W.  W.  Yates, 
of  Dewsbury,  for  kindly  allowing  me  to  quote  from  their  books. 

For  the  generous  assistance,  by  the  loan  of  photographs, 
letters  and  other  documents,  I  am  especially  grateful  to  Mr. 
and  Mrs.  J.  J.  Green,  of  Hastings;  Dr.  Heger,  and  Mdlle 
de  Bassompierre,  of  Brussels  ;  Miss  White,  of  Banagher  ;  Lord 
Shuttleworth,  of  Gawthorpe  Hall,  Burnley ;  Mr.  J.  J.  Stead, 
of  Heckmondwike  ;  Mr.  J.  Horsfall  Turner,  of  Idle,  Bradford ; 
Mr.  Fred  Shuttleworth,  of  Haworth  ;  Mr.  J.  Walton  Starkey, 
of  Woodhouse  Grove ;  and  Mr.  John  Watkinson,  of 
Huddersfield — the  Chairman  of  the  Council  of  the  Bronte 
Society. 


ESTHER  ALICE  CHADWICK. 


West  Brae, 
Enfteld, 

Middlesex. 


CONTENTS 


PAGE 

PREFACE  ...........       v 

LIST  OF  ILLUSTRATIONS    .........     xv 

CHAPTER  I 

THE   BRONTE  IRISH  ANCESTRY 

1777-1802 

THE  ancestors  of  the  Brontes — The  claim  that  Ireland  inspired  the 
Bronte  novels — The  Irish  Brontes — Birthplace  of  Patrick  Bronte — 
His  early  training — Alice  Bronte — Prunty,  Brunty  or  Bronte — 
Patrick  Bronte  enters  St.  John's  College,  Cambridge — His  pride  in 
his  Irish  nationality.  ........  1 

CHAPTER  II 
PATRICK  BRONTE'S  TRAINING  FOR  THE  MINISTRY 

CAMBRIDGE,      1802—1805 

PATRICK  BRONTE  as  a  student  at  St.  John's  College — His  industry  and 
success — Value  of  the  scholarships  he  won — His  ordination  as  deacon 
by  the  Bishop  of  London  and  priest  by  the  Bishop  of  Salisbury. 
Curacy  at  Wethers  field,  1806-1809 

Patrick    Bronte's   first   curacy — Wethersfield  in    Essex — The   Vicar   of 
Wethersfield — Mary   Burder — Patrick    Bronte    leaves    Wethersfield. 
Curacies  at  Wellington  and  Dewsbury,   1809-1811 

His  appointment  as  curate  at  Wellington  in  Shropshire — His  next 
curacy  at  Dewsbury  Parish  Church — The  Vicar  of  Dewsbury — 
Dewsbury  in  Patrick  Bronte's  time — References  to  Dewsbury  in 
Shirley — His  appointment  as  incumbent  of  Hartshead  Church — 
Memorial  tablet  in  Dewsbury  Parish  Church.  .  .  .  .15 

CHAPTER  III 

THE  REV.   PATRICK  BRONTE  AT  HARTSHEAD 

1811-1815 

THE  village  of  Hartshead-cum-Clifton — St.  Peter's  Church,  Hartshead — 
The  Nunnely  Church  in  Shirley — The  Rev.  Hammond  Roberson —  , 
The  Luddite  riots — The  Red  House,  Gomersal — Mary  Taylor — 
Apperley  Bridge — The  Woodhouse  Grove  Academy — The  Rev. 
John  Fennell — Maria  Branwell — Patrick  Bronte's  marriage  in 
Guiseley  Church — Centenary  anniversary  of  his  wedding — His 
love  letters — Publication  of  his  Cottage  Poems — His  second  volume 
of  poems — The  Rural  Minstrel — He  exchanges  livings  with  the  Rev. 
Thomas  Atkinson  of  Thornton,  near  Bradford  .  .  .  .26 

CHAPTER  IV 

THE  REV.   PATRICK  BRONTfe  AT  THORNTON 

1815-1820 

HAPPY  days  at  Thornton — Mrs.  Gaskell's  references  to  Thornton — 
Thornton  parsonage — The  Old  Bell  Chapel — St.  James's  Church — 
Birth  of  Charlotte,  Patrick,  Emily  and  Anne  Bronte — Memorial 
tablet  on  the  Thornton  parsonage — Further  publications  by  the 
Rev.  Patrick  Bronte — Nancy  and  Sarah  Garrs  .  .  .  .41 

vii 


viii  CONTENTS 

CHAPTER  V 

HAWORTH 

1820-1824 

PAGE 

THE  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte  offered  the  incumbency  of  Haworth  by  the 
Vicar  of  Bradford — The  trustees  claim  to  share  in  the  appointment — 
The  Rev.  Samuel  Redhead — Disorderly  scenes  in  Haworth  Church — 
Mrs.  Gaskell's  account — Mr.  Bronte's  appointment  as  Vicar  of 
Haworth — Journey  from  Thornton  to  Haworth — The  Haworth 
parsonage — The  Vicar's  trials  and  difficulties — Haworth  village — 
The  Haworth  moors — Haworth  customs — The  villagers  and  the 
publication  of  the  Bronte  novels — Changes  at  Haworth — Death  of 
Mrs.  Bronte 49 

CHAPTER  VI 

COWAN  BRIDGE 

JULY,  1824 — JUNE,  1825 

THE  hamlet  of  Cowan  Bridge — The  Clergy  Daughters'  School — 
Memorial  tablet — The  Rev.  W.  Carus- Wilson — Mrs.  Gaskell's 
account — Reasons  for  sending  the  Bronte  children  to  the  school — 
Miss  Elizabeth  Branwell — Death  of  Maria  and  Elizabeth  Bronte — 
Schools  associated  with  the  Brontes — School  life  at  Cowan  Bridge — 
The  school  records — The  Cove,  Silverdale — Withdrawal  of  the  children 
from  the  school — Tunstall  Church — Correspondence  in  the  press 
concerning  Cowan  Bridge  School  .  .  .  .  .  .64 

CHAPTER  VII 

HAWORTH 

1825-1831 

THE  Bronte  children  return  to  Haworth — Their  home  life  and  education 
— Tabitha  Aykroyd — Early  compositions  by  the  Brontes — Sale  of 
autograph  manuscripts — Dramatisation  of  stories  .  .  .  .82 

CHAPTER  VIII 

DEWSBURY 

1831-1832 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  journey  from  Haworth — Roe  Head  School — 
Kirklees  Hall — Ellen  Nussey  and  Caroline  Helstone — Mary  Taylor 
and  Rose  Yorke — Martha  Taylor  and  Jessy  Yorke — Miss  Wooler 
and  Mrs.  Pryor — Mary  Taylor  and  Ellen  Nussey  .  .  .  .92 

CHAPTER  IX 

HAWORTH,  ROE  HEAD  AND  DEWSBURY  MOOR 

1832-1838 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  returns  to  Haworth — Her  anxiety  for  the  future — 
She  continues  her  studies — Tuition  in  painting — Lines  to  Bewick — 
Charlotte  Bronte  and  Wordsworth — Her  correspondence  with  Ellen 


CONTENTS  ix 

PAGE 

Nussey — The  Rydings,  Birstall  —  Ellen  Nussey's  visit  to  Haworth 
— Branwell  Bronte's  visit  to  London — His  life  at  Haworth — Charlotte 
Bronte's  return  to  Roe  Head  accompanied  by  Emily  Bronte — 
Uncongenial  tasks — Emily  Bronte  returns  to  Haworth — Anne  Bronte 
takes  Emily's  place  as  a  pupil  at  Roe  Head — Anne's  illness — Transfer 
of  Miss  Wooler's  school  from  Roe  Head  to  Heald  House,  Dewsbury 
Moor — Charlotte  and  Anne  Bronte's  return  to  Haworth — Charlotte 
Bronte's  correspondence  with  Southey.  .  .  .  .  .101 

CHAPTER  X 

EMILY  BRONTE  AT  LAW  HILL,   SOUTHOWRAM 

1836—1839 

EMILY  BRONTE  appointed  governess  at  Law  Hill  School — Lack  of 
training  for  her  duties — Her  account  of  school  life — Her  character — 
The  Misses  Patchett — Law  Hill  School  and  neighbourhood — Poems 
composed  whilst  at  the  school — Material  and  inspiration  gained  by 
Emily's  association  with  the  school.  .  .  .  .  .  .122 

CHAPTER  XI 

CHARLOTTE   BRONTE* S  OFFERS  OF  MARRIAGE 
1839 

ANNE  BRONTE  becomes  a  governess  at  Blake  Hall,  Mirfield — Agnes 
Grey  and  Blake  Hall — Charlotte  Bronte's  first  offer  of  marriage—- 
Her views  on  marriage — The  Rev.  Henry  Nussey — a  prototype  of 
St.  John  Rivers  in  Jane  Eyre  —  His  unfortunate  love  affairs — 
Mr.  Nussey's  Diary  —  Charlotte  Bronte's  refusal  of  the  offer — 
Christmas  time  at  the  Haworth  Vicarage — Charlotte  Bronte  becomes 
a  governess  at  Stonegappe — Mr.  John  Benson  Sidgwick — Gateshead 
Hall  in  Jane  Eyre — She  complains  of  her  treatment  at  Stonegappe — 
Mrs.  Gaskell's  Account — Charlotte  Bronte  visits  Swarcliffe, 
Harrogate — Norton  Conyers  and  Thornfield  Hall — Her  second  offer 
of  marriage — First  visit  to  the  sea — Easton  and  Bridlington — 
Ellen  Nussey's  account  of  the  holiday  ......  138 

CHAPTER  XII 

BRANWELL  BRONTE  AND  THE  CURATES  AT  HAWORTH 

1839-1842 

BRANWELL  BRONTE  obtains  an  appointment  as  tutor — His  journey  to 
Broughton-in-Furness — Account  of  his  life  at  Broughton — Rev. 
Patrick  Bronte's  mode  of  life  at  Haworth — Mr.  Leyland's  Bronte 
Family — Branwell  Bronte  becomes  a  clerk  near  Halifax — Sowerby 
Bridge  and  Luddenden  Foot — His  life  as  a  railway  clerk — Charlotte 
Bronte's  unflagging  industry — The  Curates  at  Haworth  .  .  .  157 

CHAPTER  XIII 

ANNE  BRONTE 

SCANT  notice  by  Biographers — Her  Education  at  Home — Her  character 
— Agnes  Grey — Charlotte's  solicitude  for  Anne — Her  difficulties  as 
governess  at  Blake  Hall — She  obtains  a  situation  as  governess  at 
Thorpe  Green — Branwell  Bronte  a  tutor  in  the  same  family — Anne 
leaves  Thorpe  Green — Wildfell  Hall — Branwell's  dismissal  .  .171 


CONTENTS 

CHAPTER  XIV 

1841 
RAWDON  (MARCH  TO  DECEMBER) 

atRawHA    S  Hn}it6d  ruange  °f  ^mplishments—  Her  experience**0* 
at  Rawdon—  Advice  from  her  employers—  The  village  of  Rawdon 
Charlotte  Bronte's  lack  of    interest  in  children-The  project  ™~a 
Bronte  school—  Letter  from  Mary  Taylor—  Proposal  that  Charing 

&£%3%£f  ~  ^  *  %££$£%£    . 

'  '  '  •  I/O 

CHAPTER  XV 

LONDON 

1842-1848 

......    191 

CHAPTER  XVI 

BRUSSELS,    1842  (JANUARY  TO  NOVEMBER) 

......    199 

CHAPTER  XVII 

M-   AND  MADAME  HEGER 


,„ 

CHAPTER  XVIII 

THE  BRONTES'  EXPERIENCE  AT  THE  PENSIONNAT 


CHAPTER  XIX 


CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S   SECOND   YEAR  AT  BRUSSELS 

explanations-Charlotte  Brontes  experienc"    u°sed  !n°rth'~          US 

.   238 


CONTENTS  xi 

CHAPTER  XX 

WHY  CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  LEFT  BRUSSELS  SO  ABRUPTLY 

PAGE 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  life  and  Jane  Eyre — Her  picture  of  M.  Heger 
as  portrayed  in  Villette — Mary  Taylor's  advice — Charlotte  Bronte's 
regard  for  M.  Heger — View  of  love  in  Shirley  and  Jane  Eyre — 
Charlotte  Bronte's  conception  of  love — Her  "  irresistible  impulse  " 
to  return  to  Brussels  and  its  punishment — Her  novels  as  human 
documents — Miss  Winkworth  and  Paul  Emanuel — The  Rev.  A.  B. 
Nicholls — Publication  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  letters  to  M.  Heger 
in  The  Times — Reason  for  the  long  delay — M.  Heger's  loyalty  to 
Charlotte  Bronte.  ...  .  .259 

CHAPTER  XXI 

THE  ATTEMPT  TO  EARN  A  LIVELIHOOD 

1844-1845 

FAILURE  of  the  East  Riding  scheme  for  a  School — The  Bronte  sisters 
determine  to  open  a  school  at  the  Vicarage — The  prospectus — Causes 
of  the  failure  of  the  project — They  turn  to  literature  as  a  means  of 
livelihood — The  Vicarage  family—Charlotte  Bronte's  invitation  to 
Hathersage — Emily  and  Anne  visit  York — The  Gondal  Chronicles — 
Hathersage  and  Jane  Eyre — Marriage  of  the  Rev.  Henry  Nussey — 
Hathersage  Village — Charlotte  Bronte's  return  to  Haworth  .  .  280 

CHAPTER  XXII 

THE   PUBLISHING  VENTURE,    1845-1846 

POEMS 

SIMILARITY  of  Emily  and  Anne  Bronte's  literary  taste — Emily  Bronte 
the  moving  spirit  in  literary  work — Charlotte  Bronte's  introduction 
to  Wuthering  Heights  and  Agnes  Grey — Emily  Bronte's  surpassing 
genius — Collection  of  the  Bronte  poems  for  publication — Assumed 
names  of  authors — Attempts  to  find  a  publisher — Cost  of  publication 
— Publishing  venture  a  financial  failure — Reviews  of  the  volume  of 
poems — Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte  .....  298 

CHAPTER  XXIII 

THE  FIRST  BRONTE  NOVELS 

1845-1847 

SECRECY  observed  in  writing  the  novels — The  village  postman  nearly 
discovers  the  secret — Wuthering  Heights,  Agnes  Grey  and  The  Pro- 
fessor— Publishers'  repeated  refusal  of  The  Professor — Why  The 
Professor  was  refused — Wuthering  Heights  and  Agnes  Grey  accepted 
— Origin  of  many  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  characters  in  her  novels — 
Contrast  between  The  Professor  and  Jane  Eyre  .  .  .  .311 

CHAPTER  XXIV 

WUTHERING  HEIGHTS 

AUTHORSHIP  of  the  novel — Various  claims  examined — Charlotte  Bronte's 
testimony — Late  recognition  of  Emily  Bronte's  genius — Swinburne's 
opinion  of  the  novel — M.  Heger's  influence  on  Emily  Bronte — Poem 
by  Emily  Bronte — Charlotte's  discovery  of  some  of  Emily's  poems — 
Emily's  position  at  home — Her  workshop  and  material.  .  .  .321 


xii  CONTENTS 

CHAPTER  XXV 

CHARLOTTE  AND  ANNE   BRONTE*  S  VISIT  TO   LONDON 
DEATH  OF  BRANWELL  AND 
EMILY  BRONTE 

PAGE 

ANNE  BRONTE  and  The  Tenant  of  Wildfell  Hall — Branwell  Bronte  and 
Anne's  second  novel — Charlotte  and  Anne  Bronte  visit  London — 
They  stay  at  the  Chapter  Coffee  House — Interview  with  the  publishers 
— Visit  to  the  Opera — Death  of  Branwell  and  Emily  Bronte  .  .  355 

CHAPTER  XXVI 

SHIRLEY 

1848-1849 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  preparations  for  writing  the  story — Difficulties 
in  her  way — The  curates  in  Shirley — Charlotte  Bronte  and  Mr.  A.  B. 
Nicholls— Characters  in  the  novel — Writing  of  the  novel  laid  aside 
owing  to  Anne  Bronte's  death — The  story  continued  and  completed 
— Reception  of  Shirley — Mrs.  Gaskell's  first  letter  to  Charlotte  Bronte 
— The  curates  in  the  story  recognised  and  defended  .  .  .  365 

CHAPTER  XXVII 

DEATH  OF  ANNE   BRONTE 

1849 

Jane  Eyre  and  the  Quarterly  Review — Anne  Bronte's  illness — 
Charlotte  and  Anne  Bronte  go  to  Scarborough,  accompanied  by  Ellen 
Nussey — The  journey  broken  at  York — Arrival  at  Scarborough — 
Ellen  Nussey's  account  of  Anne  Bronte's  last  hours — Funeral  at 
Scarborough — Inexplicable  conduct  of  Mr.  Bronte — Grave-stone  in 
St.  Mary's  Churchyard — Charlotte  Bronte's  return  to  Haworth  .  378 

CHAPTER  XXVIII 

CHARLOTTE   BRONTE' S  VISITS  TO  LONDON 

1849-50 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  visits  London  at  the  invitation  of  her  publisher — 
Her  stay  at  Westbourne  Place,  Paddington — She  dedicates  the 
second  edition  of  Jane  Eyre  to  Thackeray — Unfounded  rumours 
in  consequence — Charlotte  Bronte  meets  Thackeray  and  Miss 
Martineau — She  renews  the  acquaintance  with  the  Wheelwright 
family — Return  to  Haworth — Visit  to  Gawthorpe  Hall — Her  fifth 
visit  to  London — A  disputed  portrait — Sue's  story  in  the  London 
Journal — Kitty  Bell  and  Jane  Eyre — A  Bronte  manuscript  bought 
at  a  public  auction  in  Brussels  .......  388 

CHAPTER  XXIX 

CHARLOTTE   BRONTE* S  FIRST  AND  SECOND   VISIT 

TO  THE  ENGLISH   LAKES 

1850 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  invited  to  Briery  Close,  Windermere — Her  first 
meeting  with  Mrs.  Gaskell — Mrs.  Gaskell's  account — Visits  to  the 
Arnolds  of  Fox  How — Return  to  Haworth — Second  visit  to  the  Lake 
District — She  stays  with  Miss  Martineau  at  Ambleside  .  .  .415 


CONTENTS  xiii 

CHAPTER  XXX 

CHARLOTTE   BRONTfi'S  SIXTH  VISIT  TO  LONDON 
1851 

PAGE 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  visits  London  to  hear  Thackeray  lecture — Mr. 
George  Smith — Thackeray's  lecture  at  Willis's  Rooms — Charlotte 
Bronte's  annoyance  at  his  reference  to  Jane  Eyre — Meeting  between 
Thackeray  and  Charlotte  Bronte  at  Gloucester  Terrace — Thackeray's 
second  dinner  party — The  Great  Exhibition  in  Hyde  Park — Charlotte 
Bronte  sees  Madame  Rachel — Short  visit  to  Mrs.  Gaskell  at  Man- 
chester— Return  to  Haworth — Visit  to  Scarborough — She  writes 
Villette — Difficulties  with  the  third  volume — Alterations  in  the 
manuscript — She  pays  another  visit  to  London  to  correct  the  proofs 
of  Villette — Reception  of  Villette — Price  paid  for  her  novels — Review 
by  Harriet  Martineau — Mrs.  Gaskell' s  defence  of  Charlotte  Bronte's 
novels  ...........  422 

CHAPTER  XXXI 

REV.  A.   B.   NICHOLLS 

THE  Haworth  Curates — Mr.  Bronte's  partiality  for  Irish  Curates — 
Rumours  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  engagement  to  Mr.  Nicholls — Mr. 
Bronte  refuses  his  consent — Mr.  Nicholls  leaves  Haworth — Charlotte 
Bronte  visits  Mrs.  Gaskell — Her  shyness  with  strangers — Ellen 
Nussey's  letters — Mrs.  Gaskell  pays  her  first  visit  to  Haworth  Vicarage 
— A  break  in  the  Cornhill  friendship — Correspondence  between 
Mr.  Nicholls  and  Charlotte  Bronte 446 

CHAPTER  XXXII 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTfi'S  ENGAGEMENT,   MARRIAGE, 
AND  DEATH 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  engagement  to  Mr.  Nicholls — Marriage — Honey- 
moon in  Wales  and  Ireland — Mr.  Bronte's  strange  conduct —  Mr. 
Nicholls  is  offered  the  living  of  Padiham — He  remains  at  Haworth — 
Charlotte  Bronte  as  a  clergyman's  wife — Visit  to  Gawthorpe  Hall — 
Illness  and  death — Funeral  at  Haworth  Church — Thackeray's 
appreciation  ..........  456 

CHAPTER  XXXIII 

MEMORIALS 

MBMORIAL  tablets  in  Haworth  Church — Mrs.  Gaskell's  Life  of  Charlotte 
Bronte — Memorial  tablet  at  Thornton — The  Bronte  Museum  at 
Haworth — The  Bronte  Falls — Memorial  tablet  in  Dewsbury  Parish 
Church— Portrait  in  the  National  Portrait  Gallery— The  Bronte 
Society 477 

WORKS  BY  THE  BRONTES 489 

INDBX  .   491 


LIST    OF    ILLUSTRATIONS 

ALLEGED   PORTRAIT  OF  CHARLOTTE   BRONTE  .  Frontispiece 

(see  p.  395) 

facing 
page 

PATRICK  BRONTE'S  BIRTHPLACE,  EMSDALE   ....  6 

WETHERSFIELD  CHURCH 18 

WOODHOUSE  GROVE  SCHOOL 34 

THORNTON  VICARAGE 44 

HA  WORTH  CHURCH  AND  VICARAGE 54 

MAIN  STREET,  HAWORTH 58 

COWAN  BRIDGE  SCHOOL 66 

MOORLAND  ROAD,  HAWORTH 84 

ROE  HEAD  SCHOOL    ........  92 

THE  RED  HOUSE,  GOMERSAL 100 

THE  RYDINGS,  BIRSTALL 108 

THE  BLACK  BULL,  HAWORTH 114 

ANNE,  EMILY,  AND  CHARLOTTE  BRONTE      .        .        .        .116 

LAW  HILL,   SOUTHOWRAM 126 

STONEGAPPE,  LOTHERSDALE 146 

MR.  HUDSON'S  FARM,  EASTON 154 

REV.    PATRICK   BRONTfi,    1809 168 

DO.                  DO.            1860 168 

THE   HEGER   PROSPECTUS 190 

HEGER  PENSIONNAT,   RUE   D'lSABELLE              ....  200 

M.   HEGER,    1886 214 

M.  HEGER'S  GRAVE 222 

MISS  FRANCES  WHEELWRIGHT 228 

MDLLE  DE  BASSOMPIERRE 228 

LETTER  FROM  M.  HEGER  TO  REV.  P.  BRONTE       .        .        .  236 

MADAME  HEGER  1886 252 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  LETTER  TO  M.  HEGER        .        .        .  266 

HAND-BAG  WORKED  BY  CHARLOTTE  BRONTfi        .        .        .  270 

HATHERSAGE  VICARAGE 296 

THE  WITHENS,  HAWORTH  MOORS 322 

HAWORTH  VICARAGE 348 

OAKWELL  HALL 368 

INTERIOR  OF  OAKWELL  HALL     .        .'               .        .        .  370 

xv 


xvi  LIST  OF  ILLUSTRATIONS 

facing 
pagt 

DR.   WHEELWRIGHT 388 

MRS.   WHEELWRIGHT 388 

GAWTHORPE   HALL 394 

SIR  JAMES   K.   SHUTTLEWORTH      .            .            .            .                         .  416 

REV.   A.   B.   NICHOLLS             .......  446 

REV.   A.    B.   NICHOLLS,    BANAGHER,    1890           ....  466 

THE   BRONTE   BRIDGE,   HAWORTH  MOORS          ....  470 

MISS  L^ETITIA  WHEELWRIGHT        ......  472 

MISS  ELLEN   NUSSEY               .            .            .                         .            .            .  472 

CHARLOTTE   BRONTE  .  486 


IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS   OF 
THE    BRONTES 


CHAPTER   I 

THE    BRONTE   IRISH   ANCESTRY 

1777-1802 

THE  ancestors  of  the  Brontes — The  claim  that  Ireland  inspired  the 
Bronte  novels — The  Irish  Brontes — Birthplace  of  Patrick  Bronte — 
His  early  training — Alice  Bronte — Prunty,  Brunty  or  Bronte — 
Patrick  Bronte  enters  St.  John's  College,  Cambridge — His  pride  in 
his  Irish  nationality. 

SEVERAL  attempts  have  been  made  to  retrace  the  steps  of  the 
Rev.  Patrick  Bronte,  the  father  of  the  famous  authors  of 
Wuthering  Heights  and  Jane  Eyre,  for  the  purpose  of  trying 
to  discover  if  Ireland  held  the  secret  of  the  passionate  novels 
written  by  Emily  and  Charlotte  Bronte ;  but  this  research 
was  not  begun  sufficiently  early  to  meet  with  much  chance  of 
success.  If  Mrs.  Gaskell  had  crossed  the  Irish  Sea,  when  she 
was  gathering  the  material  for  her  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  she 
might  possibly  have  been  fortunate  in  obtaining  some  clue 
to  the  ancestors  of  the  Brontes,  which  might  have  helped  her 
to  gauge  the  peculiar  character  of  the  famous  sisters,  whose 
novels  differed  so  much  from  any  that  had  been  written 
previously. 

Few  novels  have  ever  aroused  so  much  curiosity  with  regard 
to  their  origin  as  Wuthering  Heights  and  Jane  Eyre.  The 
scenes  and  characters  in  Jane  Eyre  have  been  traced  to  a  certain 
extent,  but  there  is  little  or  nothing  that  can  claim  to  be  Irish. 
Ireland  is  mentioned  but  once,  and  then  as  the  place  where 
Rochester  tells  Jane  Eyre  that  he  will  secure  a  situation 
for  her  when  he  marries  Blanche  Ingram.  There  is  nothing 

1 

I— (220*) 


9.          IN  Tf-IE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

in  Wuthering  Heights  that  can  be  called  peculiarly  Irish,  and 
it  has  not  been  proved  that  the  foundation  of  the  story  owes 
anything  directly  to  Irish  tales,  which  have  gathered  round  the 
names  of  the  Brontes  in  Ireland. 

The  Bronte  sisters  wrote  of  places  they  had  actually  seen, 
and  as  none  of  them  had  visited  Ireland  before  they  wrote  their 
novels,  Irish  life  is  not  referred  to  at  all,  unless  Charlotte's 
sarcastic  reference  to  Ireland  and  the  Irish  in  Shirley  may  be 
allowed  to  count.  Here,  it  will  be  remembered,  she  designates 
her  father's  native  place  as  "  the  land  of  shamrocks  and 
potatoes,"  and  she  describes  the  Irish  curate,  Mr.  Malone,  as 
"  a  tall,  strongly-built  personage,  with  real  Irish  legs  and  arms, 
and  a  face  as  genuinely  national :  not  the  Milesian  face — not 
Daniel  O'Connell's  style,  but  the  high-featured,  North  American- 
Indian  sort  of  visage,  which  belongs  to  a  certain  class  of  the 
Irish  gentry,  and  has  a  petrified  and  proud  look,  better  suited 
to  the  owner  of  an  estate  of  slaves,  than  to  the  landlord  of  a 
free  peasantry."  Neither  the  nationality  nor  the  brogue  of  the 
Irish  curate,  Malone,  seems  to  have  gained  the  respect  of  the 
author  of  Shirley,  which  is  somewhat  surprising,  since  she  was 
the  daughter  of  an  Irish  curate  herself.  "  When  Malone's 
raillery  became  rather  too  offensive,  which  it  soon  did,  they 
joined  in  an  attempt  to  turn  the  tables  on  him,  by  asking  him 
how  many  boys  had  shouted  'Irish  Peter  !'  after  him  as  he  came 
along  the  road  that  day  (Malone's  name  was  Peter — the  Rev. 
Peter  Augustus  Malone) ;  requesting  to  be  informed  whether 
it  was  the  mode  in  Ireland  for  clergymen  to  carry  loaded  pistols 
in  their  pockets,  and  a  shillelagh  in  their  hands,  when  they 
made  pastoral  visits  ;  inquiring  the  signification  of  such  words 
as  vele,  firrum,  helium,  storrum  (so  Malone  invariably  pro- 
nounced veil,  firm,  helm,  storm),  and  employing  such  other 
methods  of  retaliation  as  the  innate  refinement  of  their  minds 
suggested." 

This  incident  was  probably  based  upon  Patrick  Bronte's 
habit  of  carrying  a  loaded  pistol  and  stout  walking-stick 
in  his  early  days  when  a  curate  at  Dewsbury,  for  he  was  in 
Yorkshire  during  the  Luddite  riots. 

Dr.  Wright,  in  his  Brontes  in  Ireland,  did  his  best  to  give 


THE  ANCESTORS  OF  THE   BRONTES  3 

Ireland  the  credit  of  being  the  background  of  the  Bronte 
novels,  but  there  has  been  very  little  to  confirm  the  stories 
which  he  relates.  It  must,  however,  be  recognised,  that  the 
Celtic  fire  of  the  Irish  race  glows  in  the  tales,  and  the  Bronte" 
sisters  had  the  fierce  Irish  temperament,  which  revolts  against 
injustice  and  conventionality.  Heredity  must  also  claim  its 
full  share  in  moulding  the  Bronte  character,  for  there  is  no 
doubt  that  the  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte  influenced  his  daughters 
more  than  anyone  else  in  their  early  days,  and  it  was  from  him 
that  they  inherited  a  love  of  literature.  The  books  and 
magazines  which  he  provided,  though  strong  meat  for  young 
people,  helped  to  make  them  mentally  robust  and  imaginative, 
even  when  mere  children. 

Although  Ireland  cannot  claim  to  have  inspired  the  Bronte* 
novels  directly,  yet  the  father  of  the  famous  sisters  deserves 
more  credit  than  it  has  been  usual  to  accord  to  him.  Much 
of  what  he  published  was  of  Ireland  and  the  Irish  people, 
and  there  is  no  doubt  that  he  was  in  the  habit  of  telling  his 
children  stories  and  legends  of  his  native  country.  He  was 
reared  among  Irish  peasants  and,  in  his  day,  "  fairies,  witches, 
goblins,  spectres,  magic  wells  and  caverns,  and  haunted  dells" 
were  as  real  to  the  Irish  peasant  as  any  of  the  physical  appear- 
ances with  which  he  was  daily  confronted.  It  is  not  then  a 
matter  for  wonder  that  the  Bronte  children  coloured  their 
stories  with  their  vivid  imagination. 

Emily  Bronte  was  the  most  imaginative  of  the  trio,  and  she 
was  always  considered  the  most  typically  Irish  of  the  family. 
In  some  respects  she  resembled  her  father  in  build  and 
features — tall  and  lanky — "  with  a  man's  big  stride,  an  oval 
face,  shifting  eyes,  beautiful  brown  hair,  and  a  proud  and 
reserved  manner." 

The  ancestors  of  Emily  and  Charlotte  Bronte  cannot  be 
traced  beyond  their  settlement  on  the  banks  of  the  Boyne. 

Every  effort  has  been  made  to  prove  that  the  Bronte'  sisters 
came  of  a  literary  stock,  though  it  is  not  possible  to  do  that 
without  changing  the  Greek  name  of  Bronte  (which  accounts 
for  Charlotte  Bronte  in  her  early  days  signing  herself 
Charles  Thunder)  to  that  of  the  Hibernian  OTrunty,  which  is 


4     IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

now  considered  to  be  the  original  family  name,  though  this 
cannot  be  absolutely  proved. 

One  of  the  most  cherished  items  supposed  to  refer  to  the 
Irish  Brontes  has  been  unearthed  by  Dr.  Douglas  Hyde, 
who  in  1895  published  The  Story  of  Early  Gaelic  Literature,  in 
which  he  mentions  an  old  Irish  tale  contained  in  a  manuscript 
in  his  possession,  written  in  1763  by  one  Patrick  O'Prunty, 
whom  he  assumes  to  be  an  ancestor  of  Charlotte  Bronte. 
The  romance  is  entitled  The  Adventures  of  the  Son  of  Ice 
Counsel.  According  to  Dr.  Douglas  Hyde  there  is  a  colophon 
on  the  last  page  in  Irish,  which  invokes  the  blessing  of  the 
reader,  in  honour  of  the  Trinity  and  of  the  Virgin  Mary,  on  the 
author,  Patrick  O'Prunty.  The  tale  tells  of  a  fight  which 
continued  "  from  the  beginning  of  the  night  till  the  rising  of 
the  sun  in  the  morning,  and  was  only  just  stopped,  as 
Diodorus  says  battles  were,  by  the  intervention  of  the  bards." 

This  Patrick  O'Prunty  is  assumed  to  be  the  elder  brother 
of  Charlotte  Bronte's  grandfather,  Hugh  Bronte.  In  that 
case  he  must  have  written  his  manuscript  some  fourteen  years 
before  Patrick  Bronte  was  born.  That  being  so,  it  is  somewhat 
singular  that  Patrick  Bronte  did  not  know  of  it,  for,  if  he  had, 
he  would  probably  not  only  have  told  his  children  but  also 
Mrs.  Gaskell,  when  she  was  interviewing  him  to  gain  particu- 
lars of  his  early  home  and  his  forbears.  It  is  well  known  that 
Mrs.  Gaskell  got  very  little  information  about  the  Irish  Brontes, 
and  she  confessed  that  she  was  afraid  both  of  Charlotte  Bronte's 
Irish  father  and  her  Irish  husband,  and  consequently  she  did 
not  probe  far,  but  was  content  with  the  scant  information 
which  Patrick  Bronte  supplied.  It  must,  however,  be  remem- 
bered that  Mr.  Bronte  at  this  time  was  nearly  eighty  years 
old,  and  his  memory  was  failing  ;  he  was  almost  blind,  so  that, 
if  he  knew  of  any  tradition,  the  absence  of  documents  or  letters 
referring  to  his  early  home  would  prevent  him  from  proving 
his  points  with  any  degree  of  satisfaction  ;  and,  moreover, 
it  was  the  Life  of  his  daughter  that  Mrs.  Gaskell  was  writing, 
so  that  the  old  man  was  justified  in  keeping  his  daughter's 
biographer  to  the  strict  bounds  of  her  subject. 

Patrick  O'Prunty,  author  of  The  Adventures  of  the  Son  of 


THE   IRISH   BRONTES  5 

Ice  Counsel,  judging  by  his  colophon,  was  evidently  a  Roman 
Catholic.  On  the  other  hand,  Hugh  Bronte  appears  to  have 
brought  up  all  his  children  as  Protestants,  and  Patrick  Bronte 
was  ever  a  staunch  defender  of  the  Church  of  England,  as  was 
his  daughter  Charlotte. 

Old  Alice  Bronte  maintained  that  the  Bronte  family  had 
always  been  Protestant,  and  she  doubted  if  her  mother  at 
any  time  had  been  a  Roman  Catholic,  for  all  the  Brontes 
were  bitter  opponents  of  Roman  Catholicism.  It  is  strange 
that,  with  their  well-known  hatred  of  Roman  Catholics,  Char- 
lotte and  Emily  Bronte  should  have  been  sent  to  be  educated 
at  a  school  in  Brussels,  which  was  under  the  care  of  Monsieur 
and  Madame  Heger,  who  were  very  strict  Roman  Catholics. 

That  the  thoughts  of  the  Bronte  girls  often  turned  to  Ire- 
land is  proved  by  a  small  manuscript,  still  in  existence  in 
the  Bronte  Museum,  which  was  written  by  Charlotte  Bronte 
when  she  was  but  thirteen  years  of  age  ;  its  title  is  An 
Adventure  in  Ireland.  As  was  common  in  many  of  the  Irish 
tales  of  that  day,  it  tells  of  ghosts,  and  possibly  it  is  based 
on  one  of  her  father's  Irish  fire-side  stories.  At  fourteen, 
Charlotte  Bronte  wrote  another  fairy  tale,  The  Adventures  of 
Ernest  Alembert,  which  has  since  been  published  in  Literary 
Anecdotes  of  the  Nineteenth  Century,  by  Sir  W.  Robertson 
Nicoll.  Instead  of  the  usual  title  page,  it  has  a  kind  of 
colophon  on  the  last  page — 

"  The  adventures  of  Ernest 
Alembert.    A  Tale 
By  Charlotte  Bronte 
May  the  25th, 

1830." 

The  sixteen  pages  of  this  well-told  fairy  tale  are  stitched  in  a 
cover  of  rough  brown  paper,  and  it  is  noticeable  that  Charlotte 
Bronte  does  not  use  the  double-dotted  final  in  writing  her 
surname. 

Devotees  of  the  Brontes,  in  their  eagerness  to  prove  Charlotte 
Bronte's  descent  from  a  literary  ancestry,  have  said  that 
Patrick  Bronte  was  named  after  his  literary  uncle,  Patrick 
O'Prunty,  and  that  in  consequence  he  struggled  hard  to  become 


6          IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

an  author  who  would  add  lustre  to  his  family.  However 
desirable  this  may  seem,  it  lacks  all  the  elements  of  truth. 
It  is  quite  sufficient  to  know  that  Patrick  Bronte  was  born 
on  St.  Patrick's  day,  17th  March,  1777,  and  for  those  who  are 
interested  in  figures,  it  is  said  that  a  child  born  on  a  date  which 
contains  so  many  sevens — seven  being  considered  the  perfect 
number — as  could  be  crowded  into  the  actual  date,  was  des- 
tined to  become  famous.  It  has  also  been  noted  that  Patrick 
Bronte  died  on  the  seventh  day  of  June,  1861.  Both  Patrick 
Bronte  and  his  daughter  Charlotte  were  superstitious  concerning 
numbers,  and  Patrick  was  proud  to  remember  that  he  took 
his  B.A.  degree  on  23rd  April,  1806 — Shakespeare's  accredited 
birthday.  His  eldest  daughter,  Maria,  was  also  christened  on 
23rd  April,  1814.  Charlotte  Bronte  and  her  life-long  friend, 
Ellen  Nussey,  never  failed  to  remember  that  their  respective 
birthdays,  one  on  21st  April,  and  the  other  on  22nd  April, 
were  so  near  to  that  of  Shakespeare  as  in  one  case  to  be  possibly 
the  same  date. 

That  Patrick  Bronte  was  proud  of  his  Christian  name  there 
is  no  doubt,  though  in  England  it  always  pointed  to  the  fact 
that  he  was  an  Irishman.  In  those  days  Ireland  was  not 
held  in  high  esteem,  especially  by  the  inhabitants  of  Great 
Britain.  Patrick  Bronte,  however,  gave  his  Christian  name 
to  his  only  son,  who  was  considered  in  his  early  days  the  genius 
of  the  remarkable  Bronte  family.  Though  in  his  own  home  he 
was  always  called  by  his  second  name,  Branwell — his  mother's 
maiden  name — yet  everyone  in  Haworth  knew  him  as  Pat 
Bronte,  the  surname  being  pronounced  as  one  syllable  ;  others 
referred  to  him  as  "  the  Vicar's  Patrick,"  and,  though  all  the 
Bronte  children  were  born  in  Yorkshire,  they  had  no  Yorkshire 
blood  in  their  veins,  and  were  always  known  as  the  Irish 
Parson's  children. 

There  is  little  that  is  worthy  of  the  name  of  a  Bronte 
shrine  in  Ireland  to-day,  though  the  district  in  which  Patrick 
Bronte  spent  his  early  years  has  not  greatly  changed.  The 
little  thatched  cabin  in  Emdale,  County  Down,  in  which  Patrick 
Bronte  was  born,  has  been  demolished,  and  nothing  definite 
remains  to  mark  the  birthplace  of  the  much  maligned  father 


BIRTHPLACE  OF  PATRICK   BRONTE  7 

of  the  immortal  Brontes.  It  was  a  lonely  little  cottage  with 
its  mud  floor  and  its  two  tiny  rooms — one  used  as  a  bedroom 
and  the  other  as  a  kitchen  and  corn  kiln  ;  the  rent  was  said 
to  be  sixpence  a  week. 

Patrick  Bronte  was  very  reticent  about  his  early  Irish  home, 
and  his  poor  relations.  He  told  Mrs.  Gaskell  that  he  was  a 
native  of  Aghaderg,  but  this  was  not  quite  correct,  as  Emdale 
is  in  the  townland  or  parish  of  Drumballyroney-cum-Drumgoo- 
land,  which  adjoins  the  parish  of  Aghaderg.  It  must  be  said, 
however,  that  the  parish  boundary  is  not  well  defined,  and 
Patrick  Bronte's  memory  in  his  old  age  may  have  been  at  fault. 
The  little  cabin  was  on  the  Warrenpoint  and  Banbridge  Road, 
at  right  angles  to  the  Newry  and  Rathfriland  Road,  and  about 
eight  miles  from  Newry.  Banbridge  is  still  noted  for  its 
linen  manufacture.  The  tiny  cabin  in  which  Patrick  Bronte 
was  born  soon  became  too  small  for  the  growing  family,  and 
a  second  house,  about  half  a  mile  away,  in  the  Lisnacreevy 
Townland  was  taken,  where  all  his  brothers  and  sisters,  except 
the  youngest,  were  born. 

Patrick  Bronte  was  the  eldest  of  a  family  of  ten — five  boys 
and  five  girls.  He  said  that  his  father,  Hugh  Bronte,  was  a 
small  farmer,  and  that  he  was  left  an  orphan  at  an  early  age. 
He  claimed  that  his  ancestors  had  originally  come  from  the 
South  of  Ireland  and  had  settled  near  Loughbrickland.  There 
was  a  tradition  that  Patrick  Bronte's  forbears,  humble  as  they 
were,  had  descended  from  an  ancient  family  of  good  position. 
Patrick  Bronte  always  clung  to  this  idea,  and  it  is  possible 
that  this  suggested  to  Emily  the  remark  of  Ellen  Dean  to 
Heathcliff  in  Withering  Heights.  "  Were  I  in  your  place,  I 
would  frame  high  notions  of  my  birth ;  and  the  thoughts  of 
what  I  was,  should  give  me  courage  and  dignity  to  support 
the  oppressions  of  a  little  farmer." 

Of  Patrick  Bronte's  mother  little  is  known.  It  is  clear, 
however,  that  her  eldest  son  regarded  her  with  affection,  for 
he  is  credited  with  sending  her  twenty  pounds  the  year  after 
he  left  Ireland,  and  he  kept  up  the  practice  all  her  life.  She 
was  known  before  her  marriage  as  Alice  McClory,  "  the  prettiest 
girl  in  County  Down,  with  a  smile  that  would  charm  a  mad 


8          IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONT&S 

bull."  In  Shirley,  Charlotte  Bronte  assigns  that  magic 
witchery  to  Shirley  Keeldar,  a  character,  she  tells  us,  drawn 
from  her  sister  Emily,  and  supposed  to  represent  her  as  she 
would  have  been  under  the  circumstances  given  in  Shirley. 

It  is  said  that  Emily  Bronte  resembled  her  paternal  grand- 
mother, as  well  as  her  father,  for  Patrick  Bronte  was  tall  and 
thin,  though  his  father,  Hugh  Bronte,  was  described  by  his 
youngest  daughter,  Alice,  as  "  not  very  tall  and  purty  stout." 
Whilst  Emily  was  the  most  like  her  father,  Charlotte  and 
Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  were  small  in  stature,  like  their 
Cornish  mother,  but  with  much  of  the  Irish  temperament, 
whilst  the  gentle  Anne,  the  youngest  child,  was  like  her  mother 
both  in  mind  and  build — so  thought  Miss  Branwell,  their 
aunt — and  it  was  probably  for  this  reason  she  was  always 
looked  upon  as  the  aunt's  favourite.  This  was  shown  in 
Miss  Branwell's  will,  by  which  Anne  received  a  valuable  watch 
and  chain,  with  the  trinkets  attached,  whilst  Charlotte  only  got 
a  workbox,  Emily  a  workbox  and  an  ivory  fan,  and  Branwell  a 
Japan  dressing  box,  though  Mrs.  Gaskell  makes  the  mistake  of 
saying  that  Branwell  was  left  out  of  the  will  altogether. 

Patrick  Bronte's  youngest  sister,  Alice  Bronte,  died  on 
15th  January,  1891,  at  the  age  of  ninety-four.  She  was  inter- 
viewed during  her  later  years  by  several  Bronte  enthusiasts, 
including  the  late  Rev.  Thomas  Leyland,  who  said  she  liked 
to  talk  to  him  of  her  eldest  brother  Patrick,  who  was  twenty 
years  her  senior.  As  he  left  Ireland  for  Cambridge  when 
she  was  only  a  girl  of  five,  and  only  returned  to  his  native 
land  once  when  she  was  a  girl  of  eight,  she  knew  very  little 
of  him,  except  to  regard  him  as  the  clever  member  of  the  family, 
and  that  he  was  of  a  studious  disposition,  and  loved  reading. 
She  was  proud  of  being  a  Bronte,  and  she  delighted  to  talk 
about  the  literary  success  of  her  clever  nieces. 

Patrick  Bronte  was  first  a  hand-loom  weaver,  and  it  is  said 
that  whilst  weaving  he  might  often  have  been  seen  with  a  book 
propped  up  in  front  of  him,  trying  to  ply  the  shuttle  and  read 
a  little  at  the  same  time,  just  as  in  later  days  Emily  Bronte 
was  accustomed  to  have  a  German  book  in  front  of  her  when 
ironing  in  the  kitchen  at  the  Haworth  parsonage. 


PATRICK   BRONTE'S   EARLY   TRAINING  9 

Patrick  Bronte's  parents  were  poor,  and  so  far  as  is  known 
they  were  quite  illiterate,  but  he  evidently  got  his  first  interest 
in  learning  from  them  and  from  the  Presbyterian  minister. 
When  quite  a  boy,  he  had  to  earn  his  own  living  as  a  hand- 
loom  weaver.  Hence  his  great  interest  in  later  days  in  the 
hand-loom  weavers  of  Yorkshire.  He  composed  a  poem  which 
was  intended  to  stimulate  and  encourage  those  of  his  parish- 
ioners who  followed  this  form  of  employment.  On  the  title 
page  of  the  Cottage  Poems  the  first  verse  is  printed — 

"  All  you  who  turn  the  sturdy  soil, 
Or  ply  the  loom  with  daily  toil, 
And  lowly  on,  through  life's  turmoil 

For  scanty  fare  : 
Attend  :    and  gather  richest  spoil, 

To  sooth  your  care." 

Patrick  Bronte  never  forgot  "  the  rock  from  which  he  was 
hewn,"  and  his  early  literary  efforts  were  reminiscent  of  his 
early  days,  when,  to  quote  his  poem, 

"  My  food  is  but  spare 
And  humble  my  cot." 

At  the  first  exhibition  in  the  Bronte  Museum  at  Haworth, 
the  Rev.  J.  B.  Lusk,  of  Ballynaskeagh,  lent  a  copy  of  a  very 
old  calico  backed  arithmetic  by  Voster,  of  Dublin,  dated  1789. 
At  this  time  Patrick  Bronte  would  be  a  boy  of  twelve  years 
of  age.  Inside  the  book  are  the  following  inscriptions : 
"  Patrick  Pruty's  book,  bought  in  the  year  1795."  The  n 
in  Prunty  has  been  omitted. 

Patrick  Prunty  his  book  and  pen. 

Patrick  Prunty  his  book  and  pen  (in  red  ink). 

Patrick  Brunty,  (in  larger  letters). 

Patrick  Prunty,  (large  handwriting). 

There  is  a  geography,  now  in  the  Bronte  Museum,  which 
was  printed  in  Dublin  in  1795,  and  on  page  129  is  written  "The 
Revd.  P.  Bronte."  There  are  also  the  names  Walter  Sellon 
and  Walsh  Bront,  the  latter  name  appearing  several  times, 
and  in  addition  there  is  written,  "Hugh  Bronte  His  Book,  in  the 
year  1803."  Besides  these  are  written  on  the  inside  of  the  cover 
some  remarks  on  Irish  characteristics  which  conclude  by 


10        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

saying  that  the  Irish  are  "  violent  in  affection."  Also  in  a 
small  copy  of  a  New  Testament  is  to  be  seen  in  faint  writing 
the  signature  Alice,  or  Allie  Bronte,  which  seems  to  point 
to  the  fact  that  it  probably  belonged  to  Patrick  Bronte's 
mother,  who  was  known  as  Alice,  Allie  or  Ayles  Bronte,  though, 
according  to  the  parish  registers  of  Drumgooland,  her  name 
was  either  Elinor,  which  appears  three  times  in  connection 
with  the  baptism  of  three  of  her  children,  or  Eleanor  in  three 
other  cases,  whilst  the  surname  is  given  as  Brunty  in  every 
case  but  one,  when  it  is  entered  as  Bruntee,  the  handwriting 
probably  being  that  of  the  minister  or  the  parish  clerk.  All 
this  helps  to  prove  that  the  original  name  was  Prunty  or 
O'Prunty.  Charlotte  Bronte  mentions  a  geography  book 
"  lent  by  papa  "  to  her  sister  Maria,  which  was  120  years  old 
in  1829. 

As  Patrick  Bronte  loved  his  books  better  than  his  hand- 
loom,  he  decided  early  in  his  teens  to  be  a  teacher.  This 
meant  much  burning  of  the  midnight  oil — in  his  case  a  tiny 
rush-light.  It  was  owing  to  his  pursuit  of  knowledge  under 
such  unfavourable  conditions  that  he  injured  his  eyesight — 
a  source  of  much  trouble  and  pain  in  later  life.  By  much  self- 
denial,  never  allowing  himself  more  than  six  hours  sleep,  he 
managed  to  pass  the  qualifying  examination  as  a  teacher,  and 
at  sixteen  he  was  appointed  master  of  Glascar  Hill  Presbyterian 
School.  This  appointment  he  kept  for  some  five  years. 

According  to  Dr.  Wright,  a  Presbyterian  stickit  minister, 
the  Rev.  David  Harshaw,  who  had  previously  befriended 
the  young  teacher,  assisted  him  in  various  ways,  and  especially 
by  the  loan  of  books.  He  was  thus  enabled  to  improve  his 
qualifications,  and  he  succeeded  in  being  appointed  master 
of  the  Church  School  at  Drumballyroney. 

Patrick  Bronte  was  then  a  tall,  handsome  fellow  of  twenty- 
one,  and  he  appears  in  his  younger  days  to  have  been  particu- 
larly fortunate  in  the  guidance  and  help  he  obtained  from 
ministers.  Until  he  was  able  to  manage  his  own  affairs,  "  he 
hung  on  to  the  coat  tails  of  a  good  minister,"  which,  as  Mrs. 
Gaskell  says,  "is  as  wise  a  thing  as  any  young  man  can  do 
in  his  youth." 


DECIDES  TO  BE  A  CLERGYMAN  11 

The  Rev.  Thomas  Tighe,  Rector  of  Drumballyroney,  was 
evidently  much  interested  in  young  Bronte  since  he  entrusted 
to  him  the  education  of  his  own  children,  and  it  was  probably 
on  the  rector's  advice  that  Patrick  Bronte  decided  to  become 
a  clergyman,  first  seeking  to  qualify  for  this  office  by  entering 
Cambridge  University.  Mrs.  Gaskell  says,  "  This  proved  no 
little  determination  of  will,  and  scorn  of  ridicule."  Why 
"  scorn  of  ridicule  "  is  not  clear,  for  shortly  after  entering  the 
University  he  gained  three  scholarships  and  several  prizes, 
but  he  did  not  gain  a  scholarship  before  he  entered  Cambridge, 
as  several  writers  have  affirmed,  but  saved  a  sum  of  money 
and  used  it  at  Cambridge. 

Although  Patrick  Bronte's  children  were  born  and  reared 
in  Yorkshire,  they  were  all  noted  for  their  Irish  brogue.  Mary 
Taylor  told  Mrs.  Gaskell  that  when  she  first  met  Charlotte 
Bronte  at  Roe  Head  School,  Dewsbury,  she  was  struck  with 
her  strong  Irish  accent. 

The  passionate  revolt  of  the  Irish  race  and  their  strenuous 
struggle  for  freedom  are  evident  in  the  Bronte  novels,  and  there 
is  more  of  sadness  than  of  joy  in  them.  The  violence  of  the 
storm,  the  fury  of  intense  passion,  the  weirdness  of  a  moonlight 
night,  and  the  moaning  of  the  wind  across  the  moors  appealed 
to  their  Celtic  nature. 

The  mother  of  the  famous  Bronte  sisters,  Maria  Bran  well, 
a  daughter  of  a  respected  Methodist  from  Penzance,  has  not 
been  proved  to  have  been  a  true  Celt,  and  it  is  just  as  well, 
for  a  passionate  nature  such  as  Patrick  Bronte  possessed 
would  not  have  mated  well  with  one  equally  fierce.  The 
youngest  daughter — gentle,  patient  Anne — was  most  like  her 
mother,  and  her  novels  are  very  characteristic,  lacking  the 
fire  and  passion  of  her  sisters. 

The  Bronte  shrines  in  Ireland  are  held  in  veneration,  not 
because  of  Patrick  Bronte's  fame,  but  because  he  was  the  father 
of  the  famous  novelists.  The  Bronte  Glen,  near  Emdale, 
and  the  surrounding  neighbourhood  are  rich  in  Irish  relics. 

There  is  a  poem  entitled  "  The  Irish  Cabin  "  in  Patrick  Bronte's 
first  book,  a  small  volume  of  poems,  published  in  1811.  There 
are  now  very  few  copies  of  this  book  extant :  one  is  in  the 


12        IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS   OF  THE   BRONTfiS 

Bronte  Museum  at  Haworth,  and  another  at  Knutsford, 
from  which  the  following  inscription  in  Patrick  Bronte's 
handwriting  is  copied. 

"  The  gift  of  the  author  to  his  beloved  sister,  Miss  Bran  well, 
as  a  small  token  of  his  affection  and  esteem. 

"  THORNTON,  NR.  BRADFORD, 
"  March  29th,  1816." 

Patrick  Bronte  had  a  sincere  affection  for  his  humble  Irish 
home,  and  in  this  poem  he  writes — 

"  All  peace,   my  dear  cottage  be  thine  ! 

Nor  think  that  I'll  treat  you  with  scorn  ; 
Whoever  reads  verses  of  mine 

Shall  hear  of  the  Cabin  of  Mourne  ; 
And  had  I  but  musical  strains, 

Though  humble  and  mean  in  your  station, 
You  should  smile  whilst  the  world  remains, 
The  pride  of  the  fair  Irish  Nation." 

The  very  fact  that  Patrick  Bronte  published  these  poems, 
reminiscent  of  his  Irish  home,  shows  how  mistaken  Mrs. 
Gaskell  was  when  she  wrote  that  he  dropped  his  Irish  accent 
on  leaving  Cambridge,  and  had  no  further  intercourse  with  his 
Irish  relatives.  She  gives  the  impression  that  Mr.  Bronte 
was  ashamed  of  his  Irish  origin,  which  was  not  the  case.  Even 
to  the  day  of  his  death  he  preferred  Irish  curates. 

With  the  death  in  January,  1891,  of  Patrick  Bronte's 
youngest  sister  Alice,  the  last  link  with  Patrick  Bronte's 
family  was  broken.  Had  it  not  been  for  the  timely  help  of 
friends  and  relatives,  old  Alice  Bronte  would  have  spent  her 
last  days  in  poverty.  When  it  was  known  that  she  was  in 
actual  need,  after  all  her  brothers  had  died,  there  were  many 
who  expected  that  the  Rev.  A.  B.  Nicholls  would  have  allowed 
her  a  small  income,  seeing  that  he  got  all  the  money  that  his 
wife,  Charlotte  Bronte,  left,  and  also  the  greater  portion  of 
what  Patrick  Bronte  left,  which  together  amounted  to  nearly 
£3,000.  Added  to  this  was  the  money  he  received  from  the 
Bronte  furniture.  It  was  with  the  Brontes'  money  that  Mr. 
Nicholls  was  able  to  retire  from  preaching  and  settle  as  a 
gentleman  farmer.  Miss  Ellen  Nussey  was  indignant  that  Mr. 


DEATH   OF  ALICE   BRONTE  13 

Nicholls  did  not  come  to  the  aid  of  the  last  of  the  Bronte  aunts, 
and  she  also  thought  that  Charlotte  Bronte's  publishers  might 
have  allowed  the  old  lady  something,  though  it  is  not  certain 
that  they  were  even  approached  on  the  matter.  A  former 
friend  of  the  Brontes  in  Ballynaskeagh,  Dr.  Caldwell  of 
Birmingham,  who  was  always  keenly  interested  in  the  Bronte 
family,  collected  a  sum  of  money  for  Alice  Bronte's  immediate 
use.  In  1882  he  was  also  instrumental  in  securing  for  her  an 
annuity  of  twenty  pounds  from  the  Pargeter's  Old  Maids' 
Charity  Trustees,  Birmingham,  which  allowance  was  continued 
until  her  death. 

Only  one  of  Patrick  Bronte's  brothers  is  known  to  have 
visited  his  relatives  at  Ha  worth,  but  the  tales  told  of  the 
castigation  he  administered  to  the  reviewer  of  Jane  Eyre  in 
the  Quarterly  Review  are  not  true.  County  Down  and  Ha  worth 
were  too  far  apart  in  those  days,  and  neither  the  Vicar  of 
Ha  worth  nor  his  relatives  had  money  to  spare  for  long  journeys. 
Consequently,  the  Irish  members  of  the  Bronte  family  knew 
less  of  their  illustrious  relatives  than  the  friends  in  England, 
and  even  to  this  day  they  know  little  except  what  is  published. 
A  great  grandchild  of  Sarah  Bronte,  the  only  sister  of  Patrick 
Bronte  who  married,  resided  for  some  years  at  Oakenshaw, 
near  Bradford.  There  is  also  an  Emily  Bronte,  a  descendant 
of  one  of  Patrick  Bronte's  brothers,  living  in  England  to-day. 
It  has  been  said  that  Patrick  Bronte  had  little  regard  for  his 
own  native  country,  and  that  he  was  anxious  to  hide  his 
Irish  nationality,  but  this  cannot  be  substantiated,  for  in  1836 
he  published  A  Brief  Treatise  on  the  best  time  and  mode  of  Bap- 
tism, which  was  chiefly  an  answer  to  a  tract  issued  by  the 
Baptist  Minister  at  Ha  worth.  In  this  pamphlet,  Patrick 
Bronte  says  :  "  One  thing,  however,  I  think  I  have  omitted. 
You  break  some  of  your  jokes  on  Irishmen.  Do  you  not 
know,  that  an  Irishman  is  your  lord  and  master  ?  Are  you 
not  under  the  king's  ministry  ?  And  are  they  not  under 
O'Connell,  an  Irishman  ?  And  do  not  you  or  your  friends  pay 
him  a  yearly  tribute  under  the  title  of  rent  ?  And  is  not  the 
Duke  of  Wellington,  the  most  famous,  and  the  greatest  of  living 
heroes,  an  Irishman  ?  And  dare  you,  or  your  adherents,take 


14        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

one  political  step  of  importance  without  trembling,  lest  it 
should  not  meet  the  approbation  of  your  allies  in  Ireland  ? 
Then,  as  an  Irishman  might  say  to  you,  refrain  from  your 
balderdash  at  once,  and  candidly  own  your  inferiority." 

In  The  Maid  of  Killarney — the  only  novel  ascribed  to 
Patrick  Bronte — he  describes  the  Irish  as  "  free,  humourous, 
and  designing  ;  their  courage  is  sometimes  rash,  and  their 
liberality  often  prodigal :  many  of  them  are  interesting  and 
original ;  so  that  he  who  has  once  seen  them  will  not  easily 
forget  them,  and  will  generally  wish  to  see  them  again." 


CHAPTER  II 
PATRICK  BRONTE'S  TRAINING  FOR  THE  MINISTRY 

Cambridge,  1802-1806 

PATRICK  BRONTE  as  a  student  at  St.  John's  College — His  industry  and 
success — Value  of  the  scholarships  he  won — His  ordination  as 
deacon  by  the  Bishop  of  London  and  priest  by  the  Bishop  of 
Salisbury. 

Curacy  at  Wethersfield,  1806-1809 

Patrick  Bronte's  first  curacy — Wethersfield  in  Essex — The  Vicar  of 
Wethersfield— Mary  Burder— Patrick  Bronte  leaves  Wethersfield. 

Curacies  at  Wellington  and  Dewsbtiry,   1809-1811 

His  appointment  as  curate  at  Wellington  in  Shropshire — His  next 
curacy  at  Dewsbury  Parish  Church — The  Vicar  of  Dewsbury — 
Dewsbury  in  Patrick  Bronte's  time — References  to  Dewsbury  in 
Shirley — His  appointment  as  incumbent  of  Hartshead  Church — 
Memorial  tablet  in  Dewsbury  Parish  Church. 

DURING  Patrick  Bronte's  nine  years'  experience  as  a  teacher, 
he  saved  enough  to  enable  him  to  go  to  Cambridge,  where,  by 
means  of  scholarships  and  as  sizar  or  servitor,  he  was  able 
to  be  independent  of  help  from  anyone.  He  was  probably 
recommended  to  St.  John's  because  the  fees  were  very  low, 
and  because  he  would  be  sure  to  find  there  others,  like  himself, 
who  could  only  obtain  a  University  training  by  practising 
the  greatest  frugality. 

Whatever  may  be  said  of  Patrick  Bronte  in  later  life,  he  was 
most  exemplary  in  his  student  days,  working  almost  night  and 
day  to  improve  himself,  and  showing  a  fine  spirit  of  manly 
independence. 

By  the  courtesy  of  the  Master  of  St.  John's  College,  I  am 
allowed  to  copy  the  following  particulars  relating  to  Patrick 
Bronte's  residence  at  Cambridge. 

The  first  entry  is, "  Patrick  Branty,  born  in  Ireland ;  admitted 
sizar  1st  October,  1802 ;  tutors  Wood  and  Smith/'  It  is 
supposed  that  the  men  supplied  the  details  to  the  Registrar 

is 


16         IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF   THE   BRONTES 

of  the  College  verbally  and  in  person,  and  that  the  Irish  brogue 
led  to  the  mistake.  The  butler  kept  the  Residence  Register, 
in  which  appears  Sizar  Patrick  Branty  (erased)  Bronte.  First 
day  of  residence,  3rd  October,  1802  :  kept  by  residence  the 
following  Terms— 

1802  Michaelmas. 

1803  Lent,  Easter,  Michaelmas. 

1804  Lent,  Easter,  Michaelmas. 

1805  Lent,  Easter,  Michaelmas. 

1806  Lent. 

Admitted  B.A.  23rd  April,  1806. 

In  the  Register  of  Scholars  and  Exhibitions,  opposite  the 
name  of  Patrick  Bronte  appears — 

Hare  Exhibition  February,  1803. 

19th  March,  1804. 
March,  1805. 
There  is  no  mention  of  an  Exhibition  in  1806. 

The  Hare  Exhibitioners  received  amongst  them  the  annual 
value  of  the  Rectorial  Tithe  of  Cherry  Marham,  Norfolk.  The 
rent  was  £200  which,  if  they  shared  equally,  would  give 
£6  6s.  8d.  as  the  value  of  each  exhibition. 

At  Midsummer,  1805,  Patrick  Bronte  was  elected  a  Dr. 
Goodman  Exhibitioner ;  the  value  of  the  exhibition  was 
£\  17s.  6d.,  and  he  appears  to  have  held  it  only  one  year. 

From  Christmas,  1803,  to  Christmas,  1807,  he  held  one  of 
the  Duchess  of  Suffolk's  exhibitions  of  the  value  of  £1  3s.  4d. 

It  is  difficult  to  see  how  he  managed  to  pay  his  mother  £20  a 
year,  during  his  stay  at  Cambridge,  as  stated  by  Dr.  Wright, 
unless  he  made  a  fair  income  by  acting  as  coach  to  other 
students.  The  three  scholarships  only  brought  him  the  sum 
of  £9  7s.  4d.  per  annum,  and  it  is  evident  that  Dr.  Wright  did 
not  know  their  small  value,  when  he  wrote  in  his  Brontes 
in  Ireland  :  "  Bronte's  savings  were  ample  to  carry  him  over 
his  first  few  months  at  Cambridge,  and  the  Hare,  Suffolk  and 
Goodman  Exhibitions  were  quite  sufficient  afterwards  for  all 
his  wants  as  a  student."  It  is  to  be  remembered  that  Patrick 


PATRICK   BRONTE  AT  CAMBRIDGE  17 

Bronte  was  a  sizar,  or  servitor,  which  involved  status  and 
the  payment  of  very  reduced  fees  both  to  the  College  and  the 
University. 

In  the  Registers  of  the  Bishop  of  London  is  the  following — 

"  Patrick  Bronte,  A.B.,  of  St.  John's  College,  Cambridge, 
ordained  Deacon  10th  August,  1806,  in  the  Chapel  at  Fulham. 

"  Patrick  Bronte  has  letters  dimissory  dated  19th  December, 
1807,  to  be  ordained  Priest  by  the  Bishop  of  Salisbury  21st 
December,  1807." 

Whilst  at  college,  Patrick  Bronte,  in  addition  to  his  scholar- 
ship and  exhibitions,  gained  two  prizes  at  least,  consisting  of 
two  quarto  copies  of  Homer  and  Horace.  "  Homeri  Ilias. 
Graece  et  Latine.  Samuel  Clarke,  S.T.P.  Impensis  Jacobi  et 
Johannis  Knapton,  in  Ccemeterio  D.  Pauli,  mdccxxix."  This 
book  bears  the  College  Arms  on  the  cover,  and  has  the  following 
inscription  : — "  My  prize  book  for  always  having  kept  in  the 
first  class  at  St.  John's  College,  Cambridge.  P.  Bronte,  A.B. 
To  be  retained  semper. 

"  Horatius  Flaccus,  Rich.  Bentleii.     Amstelodami,  1728. 
"  Prize  obtained  by  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte, St.  John's  College." 

The  two  volumes  were  in  the  possession  of  the  late  Dr. 
Dobie,  of  Keighley,  who  purchased  them  from  Mrs.  Ratcliffe 
(Tabitha  Brown),  sister  of  Martha  Brown,  the  servant  at  the 
old  Ha  worth  Vicarage.  Like  Robertson  of  Brighton,  Patrick 
Bronte  seems  to  have  had  a  leaning  towards  a  military  life, 
and  at  St.  John's  College  he  joined  the  Volunteer  Corps,  and 
boasted  that  he  drilled  side  by  side  with  the  grandfather  of 
the  present  Duke  of  Devonshire  and  with  Lord  Palmerston. 
He  delighted  afterwards  in  telling  how  the  Cambridge 
Volunteers  practised  to  resist  the  invasion  of  England  by  the 
French.  In  later  days  he  corresponded  with  Lord  Palmerston, 
but  the  friendship,  if  ever  it  amounted  to  that,  was  never 
kept  up.  Another  student  at  St.  John's  at  that  time  was 
Henry  Kirk  White,  the  young  poet. 

After  his  ordination,  he  returned  to  his  old  home  in  County 
Down,  and  his  sister  Alice  was  fond  of  telling  that  he  preached 
one  Sunday  at  Ballyroney  church  to  a  crowded  congregation 

2 — (22OO) 


18        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

"  with  nothing  in  his  hands,"  that  is  without  using  a  manuscript, 
which  in  those  days  was  considered  a  great  feat.  There  is 
no  record  that  he  ever  visited  his  Alma  Mater  again,  but  soon 
after  leaving  Cambridge  he  secured  a  curacy  at  Wethersfield  in 
Essex,  where  his  marked  Irish  brogue  betrayed  his  nationality. 

That  Patrick  Bronte  took  his  high  vocation  seriously  and 
in  the  true  spirit  of  devotion  there  is  no  doubt.  One  of  his 
poems,  written  after  he  left  Cambridge,  is  entitled  "  An  Epistle 
to  a  Young  Clergyman,"  and  is  prefaced  by  the  text,  "  Study 
to  show  thyself  approved  unto  God,  a  workman  that  needeth 
not  to  be  ashamed,  rightly  dividing  the  word  of  truth/* 

The  seventh  verse  reads — 

"  Dare  not,  like  some,  to  mince  the  matter — 
Nor  dazzling  tropes  and  figures  scatter, 
Nor  coarsely  speak,  nor  basely  flatter, 

Nor  grovelling  go : 

But  let  plain  truths,  as  Life's  pure  water, 
Pellucid  flow." 

There  are  sixteen  stanzas  altogether.  Though  Patrick 
Bronte  wrote  many  verses,  he  would  scarcely  rank  as  a  poet, 
but  the  lines  are  interesting  because  they  reveal  the  spirit  of  a 
truly  Christian  man,  anxious  to  dedicate  himself  to  the  work 
of  the  ministry  of  the  Gospel. 

Mr.  Bronte's  first  curacy  was  at  Wethersfield  in  Essex,  a 
south  country  village,  where  the  soft  speech  of  the  Southerner 
was  in  great  contrast  to  the  young  Irishman's  brogue. 

A  hundred  and  seven  years  ago,  Wethersfield,  with  its 
copper  spired  church  dedicated  to  St.  Mary  Magdalen,  was  a 
small  village,  with  a  few  cottages  here  and  there,  and  a  number 
of  country  mansions,  where  the  county  families  lived.  It  is 
little  more  than  that  to-day,  for  Wethersfield  has  changed  less 
than  most  villages  during  the  last  century.  Even  now,  it  is 
almost  as  difficult  to  approach  as  in  Patrick  Bronte's  day,  for 
the  nearest  station,  Braintree,  is  seven  miles  away.  Cut  off 
by  the  network  of  railways,  it  is  just  one  of  those  old  world 
places,  which  seem  never  to  have  awakened  from  their  long 
sleep.  The  people,  kind  and  hospitable,  are  employed  mainly 
in  raising  garden  seeds.  Very  rarely  wandering  far  from  their 


FIRST  CURACY   AT  WETHERSFIELD  19 

home,  their  isolation  gives  them  something  of  the  sterner 
independence  of  the  North,  and  the  countryside  is  typical  of 
the  hilly  part  of  the  county,  so  that  Patrick  Bronte  must  have 
rejoiced  in  the  beauty  of  this  English  village,  where  he  began 
the  serious  business  of  life,  full  of  hope  and  with  an  Irishman's 
determination  to  succeed. 

It  was  a  favourable  place  in  which  to  start  his  ministerial 
life,  for  the  Vicar,  the  Rev.  Joseph  Jowett — a  Yorkshireman — 
was  Regius  Professor  of  Civil  Law  at  Cambridge,  and  was  a 
non-resident  vicar  of  Wethersfield,  so  that  much  of  the  work 
of  the  parish  devolved  on  the  young  handsome  curate.  In 
the  old  church  register  may  be  seen  Patrick  Bronte's  first 
signature,  which  was  written  on  12th  October,  1806,  on  the 
occasion  of  a  baptism. 

Patrick  Bronte  stayed  in  this  small  agricultural  village  about 
two  years,  the  last  entry  in  his  own  handwriting  being  1st 
January,  1809,  when  he  evidently  officiated  at  a  funeral. 
It  was  not  until  1887  that  the  information  concerning  his 
residence  at  Wethersfield  was  brought  to  light  by  Mr.  Augustine 
Birrell.  In  his  Monograph  on  Charlotte  Bronte  in  the  "  Great 
Writers'  Series,"  he  gathered  together  some  interesting  par- 
ticulars from  the  daughter  of  Mary  Burder,  Patrick  Bronte's 
sweetheart  at  Wethersfield. 

This  daughter,  Mrs.  Lowe,  wrote  an  account  for  Mr.  Birrell 
of  her  mother's  love  story,  which  adds  much  interest  to  Patrick 
Bronte's  residence  at  Wethersfield,  but  the  early  love  letters 
are  not  forthcoming. 

It  is,  however,  quite  certain  that  the  love  story  of  the  young 
curate  and  the  pretty  niece  of  his  landlady  would  never  have 
been  published  had  not  Patrick  Bronte  become  the  father  of 
the  famous  novelists.  It  is  said  that  the  young  curate,  on  his 
arrival  in  the  village,  found  lodgings  in  a  house  opposite  the 
church,  where  lived  Miss  Mildred  Davy,  whose  niece,  Mary 
Burder,  "  a  pretty  lassie  of  eighteen,  with  blue  eyes  and  brown 
curls/'  sometimes  came  from  her  home,  known  as  "  The 
Broad  " — a  large,  old-fashioned  farm-house  across  the  fields. 
On  one  occasion,  having  brought  a  present  of  game  for  her 
aunt,  she  was  busy  in  the  kitchen  with  her  sleeves  rolled  up, 


20        IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONT&S 

winding  up  the  roasting-jack,  when  the  new  curate,  seeing  her 
thus  occupied  exclaimed,  as  told  by  her  daughter,  "  Heaven 
bless  thee  !  Thou  hast  the  sweetest  face  I  ever  look'd  on." 
In  the  Cottage  Poems,  published  by  Patrick  Bronte  in  1811, 
are  "Verses  sent  to  a  Lady  on  her  Birthday/'  and  from  the 
following  verse,  which  gives  the  lady's  age  as  eighteen,  it  is 
probable  that  the  poem  was  addressed  to  Mary  Burder.  After 
speaking  of  '  Your  rosy  health  and  looks  benign  "  he 
writes — 

"  Behold,  how  thievish  time  has  been  ! 
Full  eighteen  summers  you  have  seen, 

And  yet  they  seem  a  day ! 
Whole  years,  collected  in  time's  glass, 
In  silent  lapse,  how  soon  they  pass, 

And  steal  your  life  away !  " 

It  was  a  case  of  "  love  at  first  sight,"  and  Mary  was  often 
to  be  found  at  her  aunt's  home,  where  the  course  of  true 
love  ran  smoothly  for  a  time.  Mary's  relatives,  however, 
were  prejudiced  against  an  Irishman,  and  both  Mary  and  her 
kinsfolk  were  disappointed  because  they  could  not  obtain  from 
Patrick  Bronte  himself  any  particulars  of  his  "  ain  folk."  The 
consequence  was  that  they  treated  him  with  suspicion,  and  it 
was  arranged  that  one  of  Mary's  uncles  living  at  a  distance 
should  invite  her  to  stay  with  him  for  some  time  ;  and  letters 
sent  to  her  by  her  lover  were  intercepted.  When  Mary  Burder 
returned  to  her  home,  the  love-sick  curate  had  fled,  after 
being  compelled  to  return  her  letters.  It  is  said  that  he  left 
his  portrait  inscribed  with  the  words,  "  Mary;  you  have  torn 
the  heart ;  spare  the  face."  Fourteen  years  afterwards  she 
received  a  letter  in  the  handwriting  she  once  treasured.  It 
was  from  the  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte,  asking  her  to  become  his 
second  wife  and  the  stepmother  to  his  six  motherless  bairns, 
but  she  declined,  and  a  year  afterwards  married  the  minister 
at  the  Dissenting  Chapel  at  Wethersfield,  the  Rev.  Peter  Sibree. 

On  1st  January,  1809,  Patrick  Bronte  shook  the  dust  off 
his  feet  and  left  Wethersfield. 

For  many  years  there  was  a  hiatus  in  the  calendar  of  Patrick 
Bronte's  life,  so  far  as  it  was  generally  known.  The  Church 


MARY   BURDER  21 

Register  at  Wethersfield  shows  that  he  ceased  to  be  curate 
there  in  January,  1809,  and  the  date  of  his  entering  upon  his 
duties  as  curate  at  Dewsbury  in  December  of  the  same  year 
is  fixed  by  an  entry  of  marriage  on  the  llth  of  the  month,  in 
Dewsbury  Parish  Church  register,  signed  by  Patrick  Bronte. 

There  is  little  to  record,  but  it  is  now  known  that  he  spent 
the  interval  between  January  and  December  of  the  year  1809, 
in  serving  as  curate  at  Wellington,  near  Shrewsbury.  Wel- 
lington was  far  from  being  so  congenial  as  Wethersfield  ;  it 
was  a  small  town  given  to  mining,  and  Patrick  Bronte  only 
stayed  one  year. 

In  the  matriculation  register  of  St.  John's  College,  Cambridge, 
for  the  year  1802,  appears  the  name  of  John  Nunn,  written  in 
a  bold,  round  hand,  and  standing  next  but  one  in  order  to 
Patrick  Bronte's  rather  effeminate  signature.  Mr.  Nunn  became 
a  curate  at  Shrewsbury,  and,  after  he  left  college,  he  seems 
to  have  kept  up  a  regular  correspondence  with  Patrick  Bronte. 
It  is  probable  that,  when  he  heard  of  his  friend's  troubles 
at  Wethersfield,  he  advised  him  to  apply  for  the  vacant  curacy 
at  Wellington.  The  vicar  was  the  Rev.  John  Eyton,  whose 
son,  Robert  William  Eyton,  was  an  antiquary  and  historian. 

It  is  said  that  Patrick  Bronte  quarrelled  with  his  old  friend 
John  Nunn,  on  hearing  that  he  was  about  to  be  married,  for 
the  Wellington  curate  had  arrived  at  very  definite  conclusions 
with  regard  to  the  subject  of  marriage  after  his  experience 
at  Wethersfield.  It  is  surely  the  irony  of  fate  which 
gave  to  Patrick  Bronte  the  duty  of  joining  in  matrimony 
many  of  the  couples  married  at  Dewsbury  Parish  Church — 
his  next  curacy — for,  on  examining  the  register  of  this  old 
church,  which  dates  from  the  year  1538,  it  may  be  seen  that 
Mr.  Bronte  officiated  at  most  of  the  weddings  from  1809  to  181 1. 

It  is  interesting  to  know  that  it  was  during  his  curacy  at 
Wellington  that  he  first  became  acquainted  with  the  Rev. 
William  Morgan,  who  was  his  fellow  curate,  and  afterwards 
his  cousin  by  marriage. 

It  is  now  more  than  a  century  since  Patrick  Bronte  went  to 
be  curate  to  the  Rev.  John  Buckworth,  M.A.,  at  Dewsbury 
Parish  Church.  Young  Bronte  was  fortunate  in  his  vicars, 


22        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

and  to  them,  perhaps,  may  be  traced  his  anxiety  to  become 
an  accredited  author,  and  even  his  famous  daughters,  who  wrote 
so  much  before  they  succeeded  in  publishing  anything,  may 
owe  something  to  their  father's  literary  vicars.  The  Rev. 
Dr.  Jowett,  of  Wethersfield,  published  at  least  one  volume  of 
sermons,  and  Mr.  Buckworth  was  known  as  a  capable  hymn- 
writer,  and  the  author  of  a  volume  of  Devotional  Discourses 
for  the  use  of  families.  A  copy  of  this  work  was  included 
among  Patrick  Bronte's  books  sold  in  1907,  and  it  bears  the 
inscription  :  "  To  the  Rev.  P.  Bronte,  A.M.  A  Testimonial 
of  Sincere  Esteem  from  the  Author." 

The  neighbourhood  of  Dewsbury,  like  many  other  industrial 
centres,  has  lost  most  of  the  charm  it  once  possessed.  It  is 
now  a  busy  woollen  manufacturing  district,  but  in  Patrick 
Bronte's  days  it  was  a  typical  Yorkshire  country  town.  The 
winding  Calder,  upon  whose  banks,  according  to  tradition, 
Paulinus  stood  and  planted  the  Gospel  Standard  in  627,  is 
now  a  muddy,  polluted  stream.  Even  when  Charlotte  Bronte 
was  at  school  at  Dewsbury,  it  was  a  picturesque  rural  spot, 
rich  with  sylvan  beauty,  the  heights  of  Crackenedge  and 
Westboro'  crowned  with  woods,  and  little  farmsteads  dotted 
here  and  there,  whilst  below  were  grassy  meadows  and  little 
cottages,  each  with  its  weaving  shed  situate  in  the  valley 
through  which  the  then  clear  Calder  wended  its  way. 

Dewsbury  was  a  place  to  revel  in,  so  far  as  its  scenery  went, 
but  Patrick  Bronte  arrived  at  a  troublesome  time,  just  before 
the  Luddite  riots,  and  the  people  of  the  district  were  lawless 
and  coarse.  There  was  plenty  for  the  curate  to  do  with  such 
a  population  as  he  found  in  Dewsbury,  for  bull-baiting,  badger- 
baiting  and  dog-fighting  were  the  common  amusements  of  many 
of  the  lower  classes,  and  such  sports  generally  ended  in  drunken 
brawls  and  brutal  fights.  The  vicar — the  Rev.  John  Buck- 
worth — supposed  by  some  to  be  the  original  of  Dr.  Boultby  in 
Shirley,  though  others  assume  that  the  Rev  William  Morgan, 
Patrick  Bronte's  brother-in-law,  was  the  prototype — did  not 
fail  to  denounce  this  lawlessness  from  his  pulpit,  as  the  testimony 
of  his  printed  sermons  proves.  The  Yorkshire  temperament 
and  pugnacity  found  its  match  in  the  young  Irish  curate,  and 


CURACY   AT   DEWSBURY  23 

several  stories  are  told  of  his  prowess  in  those  days,  the  most 
commonly  remembered  having  found  its  way  into  his  daugh- 
ter's novel,  Shirley,  where  she  gives  a  graphic  description  in 
Chapter  XVII  of  a  Sunday  School  procession  on  Whit- 
Monday,  though  she  need  not  have  gone  further  than  Haworth 
for  a  parallel  incident,  except  that  she  mentions  that  "  the 
fat  Dissenter,"  who  gave  out  the  hymn,  was  left  sitting  in  the 
ditch.  The  Dewsbury  story  differs  slightly  from  the  one 
associated  with  the  history  of  Haworth.  At  Dewsbury,  it  is 
said  that  the  Sunday  School  procession,  on  the  anniversary 
day,  was  on  its  way  to  sing  on  the  village  green,  when  a  half- 
drunken  man  attempted  to  bar  the  way.  The  young  curate 
rushed  forward,  seized  the  man  by  the  collar,  and  threw  him 
into  the  ditch  on  the  road-side,  after  which  the  procession 
continued  in  peace.  On  its  return,  the  man,  somewhat  sobered, 
and  resenting  the  indignity  to  which  he  had  been  subjected, 
waited  to  "  wallop  the  parson."  He,  however,  thought 
"  discretion  to  be  the  better  part  of  valour,"  when  he  saw  the 
tall,  athletic  curate  at  the  head  of  the  procession,  and  he  wisely 
made  no  attempt  to  interfere  with  its  progress. 

Another  tale  which  has  lingered  in  the  Calder  Valley  tells  of 
the  parish  bell-ringers  practising  on  the  Sunday  morning  for 
a  forthcoming  contest,  and  how  the  young  curate  rushed  up 
the  belfry  stairs  with  his  shillelagh  in  his  hand,  and  drove 
them  all  out  with  a  stern  rebuke  ;  but  perhaps  the  best  known 
story  is  of  the  rescue  of  a  boy  from  drowning  in  the  river 
Calder.  Mr.  Bronte  jumped  into  the  stream  in  his  clerical 
attire,  and  after  rescuing  the  boy,  took  him  home  and  saw 
that  he  was  attended  to,  before  he  thought  of  his  own  wet 
garments. 

Mr.  W.  W.  Yates,  in  his  book  The  Father  of  the  Brontes,  tells  us 
that  Patrick  Bronte,  when  in  Dewsbury,  resided  in  the  old 
vicarage,  close  by  the  church,  having  his  own  rooms.  The 
house  has  since  been  demolished.  Descendants  of  the  old 
inhabitants,  who  knew  him,  speak  of  Mr.  Bronte  as  not  being 
very  sociable,  but  he  did  his  work  well,  and  was  considered 
a  good  preacher,  taking  a  special  interest  in  the  Sunday  Schools. 
The  frugality  of  his  early  life  in  Ireland  followed  him  into 


24         IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

Yorkshire,  and  he  is  said  to  have  lived  mostly  on  oatmeal 
porridge  and  potatoes,  with  a  dumpling  by  way  of  dessert 
after  dinner.  If  report  is  to  be  credited,  he  wore  a  blue  linen 
frock  coat,  and  carried  a  shillelagh,  like  a  true  son  of  Erin. 
His  vicar  had  an  illness  during  his  curacy,  and  the  young 
Irishman  felt  constrained  to  send  his  sympathy  in  verse,  and 
no  fewer  than  twenty-nine  six-line  stanzas  found  their  way 
to  the  vicar.  It  is  not  poetry,  but  it  satisfied  Patrick  Bronte, 
and  must  have  amused  the  recipient.  One  verse  reads— 

"  May  rosy  Health  with  speed  return, 
And  all  your  wonted  ardour  burn, 
And  sickness  buried  in  his  urn 

Sleep  many  years  ! 
So,  countless  friends  who  loudly  mourn, 

Shall  dry  their  tears  !  " 

Patrick  Bronte's  reason  for  leaving  Dewsbury  is  one  which 
showed  his  Irish  independence.  It  is  said  that,  having  been 
caught  in  a  thunderstorm,  he  requested  the  vicar  to  take  his 
place  at  the  evening  service,  when  one  of  the  church  officials 
remarked,  "  What !  keep  a  dog  and  bark  himself."  This  so 
annoyed  Patrick  Bronte  that  he  decided  to  resign  his  curacy. 
This  apparently  did  not  interfere  with  his  friendly  relations 
with  the  Vicar,  for  the  living  of  Hartshead  Church,  a  short 
distance  away,  was  vacant  at  this  time,  and,  as  Mr.  Buck  worth 
had  the  right  of  presentation,  he  rewarded  his  hard-working 
curate,  who  thus  became  incumbent  of  Hartshead  in  1811. 

In  the  Hartshead  Church  register,  the  first  entry  made  by 
the  new  vicar  is  on  3rd  March,  1811,  where  he  signs  himself 
"  Patrick  Bronte,  minister,"  and  on  the  llth  of  March  in  the 
same  year  he  signs  himself  in  the  Dewsbury  church  register, 
"  P.  Bronte,  curate," 

He  had  been  a  curate  for  six  years,  and  he  now  realised  his 
ambition  in  securing  a  church  of  his  own.  That  the  "  Irish 
curate  "  had  made  a  name  for  himself  is  evidenced  by  the  fact 
that  members  of  the  Dewsbury  church  often  walked  over 
to  Hartshead  to  hear  him  preach.  He  had,  what  was  con- 
sidered at  that  time  a  rare  accomplishment,  the  gift  of  being 


DEWSBURY  PARISH   CHURCH  25 

able  to  preach  without  reference  to  his  manuscript,  which 
counted  for  much  among  the  Yorkshire  folk.  In  January, 
1899,  a  brass  plate  was  unveiled  in  Dewsbury  Parish  Church 
to  the  memory  of  Patrick  Bronte  with  the  following  inscription — 

"  IN   MEMORY   OF 

THE   REVEREND   PATRICK   BRONTE    B.A. 
ST.   JOHN'S   COLLEGE   CAMBRIDGE 
BORN   AT   EMDALE   COUNTY   DOWN 

ST.  PATRICK'S  DAY  1777 
DIED  AT  HAWORTH  PARSONAGE 

JUNE   7TH,    1861 

CURATE   OF  WETHERSFIELD   ESSEX    1806-1809 

WELLINGTON    1809.      DEWSBURY    1809-1811 

INCUMBENT  OF  HARTSHEAD    1811-1815 

THORNTON   NEAR   BRADFORD    1813-1820 

HAWORTH    1820-1861 

ERECTED   BY   ADMIRERS   OF   HIM   AND   HIS   TALENTED 
DAUGHTERS     CHARLOTTE,     EMILY     AND     ANNE     BRONTE." 

Had  he  not  been  the  father  of  the  famous  novelists,  it  is 
certain  his  memory  would  not  have  been  thus  honoured. 

Dewsbury  figures  in  Shirley  as  Whinbury.  It  was  noted 
for  its  Sunday  Schools,  which  were  established  even  before 
the  movement  by  Robert  Raikes.  Twenty -five  years  after 
Patrick  Bronte  left  Dewsbury,  his  daughter  Charlotte  came  to 
live  in  the  parish,  being  then  twenty  years  of  age.  She  had 
accepted  the  appointment  of  governess  in  Miss  Wooler's 
school,  which  had  just  been  transferred  from  Roe  Head, 
Mirfield,  to  Heald's  House,  at  the  top  of  Dewsbury  Moor. 
Whilst  here,  she  attended  the  Dewsbury  Parish  Church,  where 
her  father  had  formerly  been  curate.  Some  of  the  older 
inhabitants  used  to  speak  of  her  as  a  shy  little  person,  very 
short  and  dumpy,  but  with  very  expressive  eyes  and  a  most 
attentive  worshipper  in  church.  It  was  whilst  teaching  there 
that  she  had  a  bad  attack  of  hypochondria,  and  the  doctor 
told  her,  as  she  valued  her  life,  to  leave  Dewsbury  and  get  home 
to  Haworth.  In  Villette  she  mentions  this  serious  attack, 
connecting  it  with  Lucy  Snowe,  and  in  one  of  her  letters  she 
speaks  of  Dewsbury  as  "  a  poisoned  place  for  me." 


CHAPTER  III 

THE   REV.   PATRICK  BRONTE   AT  HARTSHEAD 
1811-1815 

THE  village  of  Hartshead-cum-Clif ton — St.  Peter's  Church,  Hartshead — 
The  Nunnely  Church  in  Shirley — The  Rev.  Hammond  Roberson — 
The  Luddite  riots — The  Red  House,  Gomersal — Mary  Taylor — 
Apperley  Bridge— The  Woodhouse  Grove  Academy— The  Rev. 
John  Fennell — Maria  Branwell — Patrick  Bronte's  marriage  in 
Guiseley  Church — Centenary  anniversary  of  his  wedding — His 
love  letters — Publication  of  his  Cottage  Poems — His  second  volume 
of  poems — The  Rural  Minstrel — He  exchanges  livings  with  the  Rev. 
Thomas  Atkinson  of  Thornton,  near  Bradford. 

HARTSHEAD-CUM-CLIFTON  is  about  four  miles  from  Dewsbury, 
so  that  Patrick  Bronte  did  not  find  much  difference  either  in 
the  type  of  people  or  in  the  district  after  he  left  Dewsbury. 
Hartshead  Church  was  in  the  same  parish,  and  is  dedicated 
to  St.  Peter.  It  is  known  in  Shirley  as  Nunnely  Church, 
and  is  beautifully  situated  on  a  hill  overlooking  the  valley  of 
the  Calder.  Near  the  church  gates  are  the  old  stocks,  which 
were  often  in  use  in  Patrick  Bronte's  days.  The  church, 
though  altered  and  renovated  since  Mr.  Bronte's  time,  still 
retains  its  ancient  appearance.  The  square  tower,  the  oldest 
remaining  portion  of  the  church,  was  formerly  surmounted 
by  an  old,  weatherbeaten  ash  tree,  which  had  its  roots  in  the 
roof  of  the  tower.  In  the  vestry  are  portraits  of  the  Rev. 
Patrick  Bronte,  the  Rev.  Thomas  Atkinson,  who  followed 
Mr.  Bronte  and  was  the  godfather  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  and 
his  successor,  the  Rev.  Thomas  King. 

The  registers  of  the  church  go  as  far  back  as  1612.  They 
have  lately  been  of  service  to  the  old  inhabitants  who  wished 
to  claim  their  old-age  pension.  In  addition  to  the  signature 
of  Patrick  Bronte  there  is  to  be  seen  the  certificate  of  baptism 
of  Patrick  Bronte's  eldest  child,  Maria  Bronte,  who  was  born 
in  1813,  but  not  christened  until  23rd  April,  1814,  Shakespeare's 
birthday,  and  the  anniversary  of  Mr.  Bronte's  Degree  day  at 

26 


REV.   HAMMOND   ROBERSON  27 

Cambridge.  The  christening  ceremony  was  performed,  as 
the  register  shows,  by  Patrick  Bronte's  relative,  the  Rev. 
William  Morgan,  of  Bradford  Parish  Church. 

Patrick  Bronte  found  lodgings  at  a  farm,  known  in  his  day 
as  Lousey  Thorn,  but  now  called  by  the  more  euphonious  title 
of  Thorn  Bush  Farm.  The  tenants  of  the  farm,  when  he  stayed 
there,  were  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Bedford,  who  had  at  one  time  been 
servants  at  Kirklees  Hall.  According  to  the  church  register,  Mr. 
Bronte  entered  on  his  duties  at  St.  Peter's  Church,  Hartshead, 
on  March  3rd,  1811,  and  not  in  July,  as  has  been  frequently 
stated,  for  there  is  an  entry  in  March  signed — Patrick  Bronte, 
minister.  The  new  incumbent  had  been  preceded  some  ten 
years  previously  by  the  noted  Rev.  Hammond  Roberson,  M.A., 
a  Fellow  of  Magdalene  College,  Cambridge,  who  had  also  been 
one  of  Patrick  Bronte's  predecessors  as  curate  of  Dewsbury 
Parish  Church.  Mr.  Roberson,  in  many  ways,  resembled 
Patrick  Bronte,  for  he  was  a  bold  and  fearless  preacher,  with 
a  strong  personality,  a  stalwart  Tory  of  the  old  school,  a  man 
of  indomitable  will,  and  self-sacrificing  and  generous  in  his 
nature.  After  resigning  his  curacy  at  Dewsbury,  he  started  a 
boys'  school,  renting  for  the  purpose  Squirrel's  Hall  on  Dews- 
bury  Moor.  He  afterwards  transferred  the  school  to  Heald's 
Hall,  and  such  was  his  success  that  he  saved  enough  to  enable 
him  to  build  Liversedge  Church,  which  cost  over  £7,000,  and 
where  he  became  vicar  in  1816.  Charlotte  Bronte  has  por- 
trayed him  in  Shirley  as  Parson  Heist  one,  "  the  old  Cossack," 
as  she  calls  him,  but  he  must  have  resembled  her  father  very 
much,  for  those  who  knew  Patrick  Bronte  in  later  days  recog- 
nised him  in  the  delineation  of  Mr.  Helstone  ;  no  doubt  some- 
thing from  both  clergymen  helped  to  build  up  the  character. 
Charlotte  Bronte,  in  a  letter  to  Mr.  Williams,  says  that  she  only 
saw  the  original  of  Mr.  Helstone  once  when  she  was  a  girl  of 
ten,  at  the  consecration  of  a  church  on  September  4th,  1827, 
which  Ellen  Nussey  referred  to  as  St.  John's  on  Dewsbury 
Moor. 

The  description  given  in  Shirley  of  Mr.  Helstone — the  clerical 
Cossack — fits  Mr.  Roberson. 

"  He  was  not  diabolical  at  all.     The  evil  simply  was— he  had 


28        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONT&S 

missed  his  vocation  :  he  should  have  been  a  soldier,  and  circum- 
stances had  made  him  a  priest.  For  the  rest  he  was  a  con- 
scientious, hard-headed,  hard-handed,  brave,  stern,  implacable, 
faithful  little  man  :  a  man  almost  without  sympathy,  ungentle, 
prejudiced,  and  rigid  :  but  a  man  true  to  principle — honourable, 
sagacious,  and  sincere." 

Mr.  Roberson  was  building  his  church  at  Liversedge  at  the 
time  that  Patrick  Bronte  was  incumbent  of  Hartshead,  and  he 
was  a  prominent  character  during  the  Luddite  riots,  an  account 
of  which  Charlotte  Bronte  heard  from  her  father  and  the  people 
in  the  neighbourhood  when  she  came  to  live  there.  Mrs. 
Gaskell  gives  a  very  good  account  of  Mr.  Roberson,  of  whom 
she  heard  much  when  visiting  Miss  Wooler  and  Ellen  Nussey. 
The  more  eccentric  the  character,  the  more  Mrs.  Gaskell 
enjoyed  writing  about  it. 

Heald's  Hall,  the  residence  of  Hammond  Roberson,  was  the 
largest  house  in  the  neighbourhood,  and  must  not  be  confused 
with  Heald's  House,  where  Charlotte  Bronte  was  teacher 
with  Miss  Wooler.  In  the  Liversedge  church  is  a  stained  - 
glass  window,  erected  to  the  memory  of  Hammond  Roberson, 
with  an  inscription,  "  To  the  glory  of  God  and  in  memory  of 
the  Rev.  Hammond  Roberson,  M.A.  ;  founder  of  this  church 
in  1816,  and  its  first  incumbent,  who  died  August,  1841,  aged 
84  years/'  In  the  adjoining  graveyard  is  a  very  small  grave- 
stone, about  half-a-yard  high,  with  just  the  name,  age,  and  date 
of  burial.  The  vicar  advocated  one  small  gravestone  to  each 
person,  and  he  insisted  on  all  stones  being  uniform.  It  is 
said  that  one  parishioner  erected  a  head-stone  larger  than  the 
others,  and  the  vicar  had  it  taken  up  and  thrown  into  the  hollow 
at  the  bottom  of  the  churchyard. 

Another  grave  in  the  Liversedge  churchyard  which  merits 
attention  is  that  of  William  Cartwright,  the  original  of  Robert 
Gerard  Moore,  of  Shirley ;  on  it  is  a  simple  inscription, 
"William  Cartwright  of  Rawfolds,  died  15th  April,  1839, 
aged  64  years." 

In  the  year  after  Mr.  Bronte  became  incumbent  of  Hartshead, 
the  whole  of  the  West  Riding  of  Yorkshire  was  in  constant 
turmoil.  Sixty-six  persons  were  tried  at  York  for  various 


THE   LUDDITE  RIOTS  29 

offences  connected  with  the  Luddite  rising  against  the  intro- 
duction of  machinery.  Seventeen  were  executed,  and  six  were 
transported  for  seven  years.  The  two  big  mill-owners  in  the 
Hartshead  district — Cartwright  of  Rawfolds,  Liversedge,  and 
Horsfall  of  Marsden — were  considered  by  the  workpeople  to  be 
the  chief  offenders  in  the  district,  for  both  had  decided  to  stock 
their  mills  with  machinery.  Parson  Roberson  took  the  side  of 
the  mill-owners,  and  had  no  sympathy  with  the  workpeople, 
preaching  from  the  pulpit  against  the  Luddites,  and  doing 
all  he  could  to  make  the  workers  bend  to  their  employers. 
Mr.  Bronte  also  took  the  same  view,  and  Mary  Taylor,  writing 
to  Mrs.  Gaskell  in  1857  from  New  Zealand,  acknowledging 
a  copy  of  the  first  edition  of  the  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  says  : 
'  You  give  much  too  favourable  an  account  of  the  black- 
coated  and  Tory  savages  that  kept  the  people  down  and 
provoked  excesses  in  those  days.  Old  Roberson  said  he  would 
wade  to  the  knees  in  blood  rather  than  the  then  state  of  things 
should  be  altered,  a  state  including  Corn  Law,  Test  Law,  and 
a  host  of  other  oppressions." 

Charlotte  Bronte  describes  the  Luddite  riots  in  Shirley. 
For  this  purpose  she  got  the  loan  of  a  file  of  copies  of  the 
Leeds  Mercury  covered  by  the  period  ;  her  father  also  was  able 
to  give  her  material  assistance  from  the  standpoint  of  an  eye- 
witness of  some  of  the  stirring  events,  and  her  old  school- 
mistress, Miss  Wooler,  used  to  tell  her  pupils  of  her  recollec- 
tions of  some  of  the  scenes  when  taking  the  girls  for  their 
daily  walks  around  the  neighbourhood. 

The  rendezvous  of  the  Luddites  of  the  district  was  not  far 
from  Patrick  Bronte's  home  in  Hartshead.  It  was  by  the 
Dumb  Steeple — a  monument  without  an  inscription,  hence 
its  name.  Here  the  men  met  at  midnight.  Near  by  was  the 
inn  known  as  "  The  Three  Nuns/'  where  they  adjourned  after 
taking  the  oath  and  learning  the  pass-words,  which  were  said 
to  be  "  go  "  and  "  inn."  The  men  were  also  drilled  in  the  use 
of  certain  signs  which  were  quite  masonic. 

In  Ben  0'  Bill's,  the  Luddite, Mr.  D.  F.  E.  Sykes,  LL.B.,  a 
native  of  Huddersfield,  quoting  from  old  manuscripts  of  the 
days  of  the  Luddites,  says  :  "  Mr.  Cartwright  was  more  of  a 


30        IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONT&S 

foreigner  nor  an  Englishman.  A  quiet  man  with  a  cutting 
tongue.  Had  ne'er  a  civil  word  for  a  man,  an'  down  on  him 
in  a  jiffy  if  he  looked  at  a  pot  o'  beer.  Drank  nowt  himself. 
.  .  .  Was  sacking  the  old  hands  and  stocking  Rawfolds  with 
machines  ;  and  Parson  Roberson  was  worse  nor  him." 

The  Luddites  were  more  favourable  to  Mr.  Horsfall  of 
Marsden,  as  he  was  a  Yorkshireman,  out  and  out,  and, 
according  to  Mr.  Sykes'  narrative,  a  coin  was  tossed  to  decide 
which  mill  was  to  be  attacked — heads  for  Horsfall,  tails  for 
Cartwright.  The  coin  fell  with  the  head  uppermost,  but  the 
tosser,  pretending  to  take  the  coin  to  the  light  of  the  fire, 
turned  the  penny  over,  so  that  it  was  against  Mr.  Cartwright. 

"  '  I'm  glad  it  fell  on  Cartwright/  I  said  to  my  cousin,  as  we 
doffed  our  things  that  night.  '  Aw  thought  tha  would  be,' 
said  George.  *  It  wer'  a  weight  off  me  when  it  fell  tails/  I 
added/' 

"  '  But  it  were  a  head/  said  George,  with  a  quiet  smile. 

"  '  A  head  ! ' 

"  '  Ay,  a  head.  But  I  knew  tha  wanted  tails,  so  I  turned 
it  i'  th'  palm  o'  mi  hand,  when  I  stooped  over  th'  fire.' ' 

And  yet  men  talk  about  fate,  says  the  teller  of  the  story. 

The  attack  on  Cartwright's  mill  at  Rawfolds,  Liversedge, 
took  place  on  Saturday,  llth  April,  1812,  according  to  the 
Leeds  Mercury.  The  military  were  called  out  to  defend  the 
mill,  and  on  the  following  Saturday  a  court  martial  was  held 
on  one  of  the  soldiers  who  had  acted  in  an  unsoldierly  manner. 
It  is  recorded  that  he  refused  to  fire  for  fear  of  hurting  his  own 
brothers  who  were  attacking  the  mill,  and  he  was  condemned — 
so  the  account  says — to  three  hundred  lashes  for  his  breach  of 
military  discipline. 

Mr.  Cartwright  returned  home  by  way  of  Bradley  Wood, 
near  Huddersfield,  and  was  fired  at  by  two  men  who  were 
hiding  in  the  plantation.  The  shots  missed  fire  and  Mr. 
Cartwright — the  original  of  Robert  Moore — escaped  uninjured. 

Charlotte  Bronte  does  not  follow  absolutely  the  facts  in 
this  part  of  her  novel,  for  in  Chapter  XXXI  of  Shirley  she 
tells  the  story  of  Moore  being  shot.  "  Miss  Keeldar  read  the 
note  :  it  briefly  signified  that  last  night  Robert  Moore  had  been 


THE   RED   HOUSE,   GOMERSAL.  31 

shot  at  from  behind  the  wall  of  Milldean  plantation,  at  the 
foot  of  the  Brow ;  that  he  was  wounded  severely,  but  it  was 
hoped  not  fatally  :  of  the  assassin  or  assassins,  nothing  was 
known — they  had  escaped.  .  .  ." 

Briarmains  had  its  original  in  the  Red  House,  Gomersal, 
said  to  date  from  1660.  It  was  the  old  home  of  Mary  Taylor, 
Charlotte  Bronte's  friend.  Evidently  some  stranger  had  been 
admitted  to  the  house  in  circumstances  somewhat  similar  to 
those  related  of  Moore  in  Charlotte  Bronte's  novel,  for  Mary 
Taylor  refers  to  the  matter  in  her  letter  acknowledging  the 
copy  of  Shirley,  and  mentions  "  the  handsome  foreigner  " 
who  was  nursed  in  her  home  when  she  was  a  little  girl,  but  she 
points  out  to  the  novelist  that  she  has  placed  the  wounded 
man  in  the  servant's  bedroom. 

When  the  writer  was  privileged  to  go  over  the  Red  House, 
now  occupied  by  Dr.  Waring  Taylor,  in  October,  1908,  the 
room  in  which  "  the  handsome  foreigner  "  was  lodged  was 
shown.  The  house  has  fortunately  been  preserved,  and  is 
now  much  the  same  as  it  was  in  Charlotte  Bronte's  day.  The 
beautiful  stained-glass  windows  in  the  family  sitting-room 
which  Charlotte  Bronte  noticed  are  still  there. 

Some  pictures  which  attracted  Charlotte  Bronte  are  in  the 
old  library  still ;  there  is  the  miniature  of  old  Joshua  Taylor— 
the  Hiram  Yorke  of  Shirley — painted  at  Rome  in  1802 ;  and 
there  are  also  souvenirs  that  he  brought  home  from  Italy 
and  other  places  on  the  Continent.  The  Red  House  is  well 
worthy  of  notice,  and  the  descendants  of  the  Taylors  are  very 
proud  of  the  account  given  in  Shirley.  Hiram  Yorke  is  a  very 
true  representation  of  Joshua  Taylor,  a  very  intelligent  manu- 
facturer, who  could  speak  French  fluently,  and  yet  loved  to 
talk  in  his  rough  Yorkshire  dialect.  Rose  and  Jessy  Yorke  of 
Shirley  were  the  two  daughters,  Mary  and  Martha  Taylor. 
One  of  Mr.  Taylor's  sons  was  allowed  to  read  the  part  of  Shirley 
that  refers  to  the  Taylor  family  before  it  was  published,  and 
he  was  well  satisfied  with  the  account. 

This  Yorkshire  family  of  strong  Radicals  and  Dissenters 
had  a  meeting-house,  known  as  Taylor's  Chapel,  near  their 
residence.  It  is  now  a  cottage  and  a  joiner's  shop.  Only  one 


32         IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONT&S 

gravestone  can  be  identified,  and  the  inscription  is  scarcely 
legible.  Some  little  distance  from  the  house  is  the  Taylors' 
private  burial-ground  in  Fir  Dene  Wood.  It  is  still  used,  a 
child  of  the  family  being  buried  there  a  few  years  ago. 

Although  it  was  only  by  a  trick  that  Cartwright's  mill  at 
Rawfolds  came  to  be  the  one  selected  for  attack,  Mr.  Timothy 
Horsfall,  of  Marsden,  the  other  manufacturer  in  the  district 
who  had  opposed  the  Luddites  and  who  did  all  he  could  to  trace 
the  ringleaders  in  the  attack  on  Cartwright's  mill,  was  the  one 
to  lose  his  life.  On  Tuesday,  28th  April,  1812,  he  was  shot 
on  Crossland  Moor,  not  far  from  the  Warren  House  Inn,  and 
died  the  next  day.  For  this  murder,  three  men  were  hanged 
at  York  in  the  following  January,  and  the  fourth  turned 
"  King's  Evidence." 

In  Shirley,  Charlotte  Bronte  gives  a  graphic  description  of 
the  attack  on  Hollows  mill,  but  she  does  not  mention  the 
Horsfalls  of  Marsden.  Cartwright  was  evidently  considered 
to  be  the  more  interesting  character.  Her  description  of 
Caroline  Helstone  trying  to  go  to  the  help  pf  Robert  Gerard 
Moore  reminds  the  readers  of  a  somewhat  similar  event  in 
North  and  South,  where  Mrs.  Gaskell  describes  a  Manchester 
mill  riot  and  Margaret  Hale  defends  Thornton,  the  owner  of 
the  mill.  North  and  South,  however,  was  written  after  Shirley, 
though  there  are  parts  of  Shirley  which  owe  something  to 
Mary  Barton.  Indeed,  it  was  said  in  Ha  worth  that  Charlotte 
Bronte  wished  to  write  a  story  of  the  Chartists,  but  that 
Mr.  Butterfield,  of  Keighley,  persuaded  her  not  to  do  so. 
He  was  proud  of  telling  the  story  of  his  walk  with  Charlotte 
Bronte  from  Keighley  to  Ha  worth,  when  he  used  the  oppor- 
tunity to  persuade  her  not  to  write  on  the  subject  of  the  Char- 
tists, but  rather  to  deal  with  the  Luddite  riots  as  being  a  more 
suitable  subject. 

The  most  exciting  scene  in  the  novel  is  the  graphic  descrip- 
tion of  the  storming  of  the  mill ;  and  it  is  interesting  to  know 
that  Mrs.  Gaskell,  in  her  North  and  South,  has  a  somewhat 
similar  scene. 

"  '  Shirley — Shirley,  the  gates  are  down  !  That  crash  was 
like  the  felling  of  great  trees.  Now  they  are  pouring  through. 


THE   STORMING   OF    HOLLOWS   MILL  33 

They  will  break  down  the  mill-doors  as  they  have  broken  the 
gate  :  what  can  Robert  do  against  so  many  ?  Would  to  God 
I  were  a  little  nearer  him — could  hear  him  speak — could  speak 
to  him  !  With  my  will — my  longing  to  serve  him — I  could 
not  be  a  useless  burden  in  his  way.  I  could  be  turned  to 
some  account.' "  .  .  . 

Mr.  Cartwright  earned  the  goodwill  of  the  manufacturers  in 
the  district  for  his  firm  stand  against  the  Luddites.  In  the 
Bronte  Museum  at  Haworth  is  the  actual  testimonial,  written 
on  parchment,  which  was  presented  to  Mr.  William  Cartwright, 
of  Rawfolds  mill,  by  influential  inhabitants  of  the  West  Riding 
of  Yorkshire  on  17th  May,  1813.  The  writing  is  very  faded, 
but  a  typewritten  copy  of  the  inscription  has  been  made. 

It  was  during  such  times  as  these  that  Patrick  Bronte  was 
in  charge  of  a  church  in  the  district,  and  it  is  not  to  be  wondered 
at  that  he  became  morose  and  melancholy.  Life  was  cheap 
in  Yorkshire,  and  the  young  Irish  clergyman  needed  all  his 
courage  and  discretion  to  manage  the  people.  The  rich  and 
poor  were  poles  asunder,  and  the  misery  and  suffering  on  the 
one  hand  was  matched  by  fear  and  cruelty  on  the  other. 

"  Misery  generates  hate  :  these  sufferers  hated  the  machines 
which  they  believed  took  their  bread  from  them  :  they  hated 
the  buildings  which  contained  those  machines  ;  they  hated 
the  manufacturers  who  owned  those  buildings,"  says  Charlotte 
Bronte  in  Shirley.  Though  the  workers  were  prejudiced 
against  the  machines,  the  hand-looms  disappeared  in  time, 
and  the  factories,  with  their  noisy  machinery,  flourished,  and 
the  looms,  once  a  feature  of  so  many  artisans'  cottages,  were 
broken  up.  Charlotte  Bronte  was  at  a  disadvantage  compared 
with  Mrs.  Gaskell  who  wrote  of  the  "  hungry  forties,"  because 
she  did  not  actually  witness  the  scenes  she  describes. 

In  the  second  year  of  Patrick  Bronte's  residence  at  Harts- 
head,  and  at  the  time  of  the  Luddite  riots,  a  Wesleyan  Academy 
was  built  at  Woodhouse  Grove,  Apperley  Bridge,  near  Leeds 
and  Bradford  ;  a  tablet  on  the  old  part  of  the  building  is 
inscribed  "  Wesleyan  Academy,  opened  January  8th,  1812." 
It  was  intended  for  the  education  of  the  sons  of  Wesleyan 
ministers,  whose  length  of  stay  in  any  one  circuit  is  usually 


34        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

not  more  than  three  years.  Mr.  H.  Walton  Starkey,  in  his 
Short  History  of  Woodhouse  Grove  School,  says  that  the  first  head- 
master and  governor  was  Mr.  John  Fennell,  and  his  wife  was 
responsible  for  the  household  arrangements ;  their  joint 
salary  was  £100  a  year.  The  school  started  with  eight  boys, 
but  by  the  end  of  the  year  there  were  seventy  names  on  the 
books.  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Fennell  remained  about  a  year,  as  Mr. 
Fennell  decided  to  take  orders  in  the  Church  of  England,  and 
that  becoming  known,  he  was  required  to  leave.  There  were 
also  complaints  as  to  Mrs.  Fenn ell's  management  of  the 
household. 

Subsequently  the  Rev.  Jabez  Bunting  secured  the  appoint- 
ment for  his  brother-in-law,  the  Rev.  Thomas  Fletcher,  who 
was  the  grandfather  of  "  Deas  Cromarty." 

Mr.  Fennell  became  a  curate  at  the  Parish  Church,  Bradford, 
and  later  was  appointed  Vicar  of  Cross  Stones,  near  Todmorden. 

The  first  inspector  at  the  Woodhouse  Grove  School  was  the 
Rev.  Patrick  Bronte,  who  examined  the  pupils  at  the  end  of  the 
summer  term. 

It  is  probable  that  the  Rev.  William  Morgan  knew  that 
Patrick  Bronte  had  been  a  successful  teacher  in  County  Down. 
His  report  on  the  school  has  never  been  quoted  and  research 
has  failed  to  find  it. 

The  Woodhouse  Grove  Academy,  or  school  as  it  is  now  called, 
is  on  the  north  bank  of  the  Aire,  just  below  the  bridge  ;  it  is 
delightfully  situated  in  its  own  grounds,  and  the  governor's 
house  adjoins  the  school.  Whether  Patrick  Bronte  had  been 
to  Woodhouse  Grove  Academy  before  he  went  as  an  examiner 
we  are  not  told,  but  before  August,  1812,  was  out,  he  was 
sending  love  letters  to  the  Headmaster's  niece,  Maria  Branwell 
daughter  of  Mr.  Fennell's  wife's  brother.  Evidently  Mr. 
Bronte's  warm-hearted  Irish  temperament  would  not  allow 
him  to  remain  a  woman-hater  for  long.  The  engagement 
appears  to  have  taken  place  in  July,  and  the  nine  letters 
which  have  been  published  point  to  times  of  happiness  and 
pleasure,  referring  to  country  walks  to  the  historic  spots 
around  Apperley,  to  Calverley  and  to  Kirkstall  Abbey  ;  the 


W 


PATRICK   BRONTE'S   MARRIAGE  35 

latter  place  inspired  Patrick  Bronte  to  write  a  poem  on  the 
old  abbey. 

Maria  Bran  well  was  a  refined  and  cultured  woman  of  thirty  ; 
she  was  making  a  long  visit  from  her  home  in  Penzance  to 
her  aunt  and  uncle  at  Woodhouse  Grove.  Her  cousin,  Jane 
Fennell,  was  engaged  to  the  Rev.  William  Morgan,  and  it 
was  only  natural  that  Patrick  Bronte,  with  his  capacity  for 
falling  in  love,  should  be  captivated  by  the  quiet,  modest 
Cornish  lady,  who  had  all  the  qualifications  for  making  a  good 
and  capable  clergyman's  wife,  although  she  was  a  Wesleyan 
Methodist.  As  Patrick  Bronte  had  been  disappointed  before, 
he  did  not  mean  to  have  a  repetition.  He  was  now  thirty-five, 
and  in  addition  to  being  Vicar  of  Hartshead,  was  known  in 
a  limited  circle  as  a  poet  and  an  author,  having  already  pub- 
lished his  Cottage  Poems.  He  could  also  point  to  a  good 
record  at  the  places  where  he  had  served  as  curate.  The  only 
objections  hitherto  raised  against  him  were  that  he  was  an 
Irishman  and  little  was  known  of  his  relatives.  These, 
however,  do  not  appear  to  have  been  serious  obstacles  in 
his  wooing  of  Maria  Bran  well,  who  reciprocated  his  love. 
A  long  courtship  was  out  of  the  question,  and  on  the  29th  of 
the  following  December,  the  marriage  was  celebrated  at 
Guiseley  Parish  Church,  where  the  marriage  certificate  may 
be  seen.  Next  to  it  is  the  certificate  of  marriage  of  the  Rev. 
William  Morgan  and  Jane  Fennell. 

The  two  clergymen  did  not  seem  anxious  to  have  a  third  to 
help  to  tie  the  knots,  for  Mr.  Morgan  officiated  at  the  marriage 
of  Patrick  Bronte  and  Maria  Branwell,  and  Patrick  Bronte 
united  in  wedlock  William  Morgan  and  Jane  Fennell,  the 
wives  acting  as  bridesmaids  to  each  other,  whilst  Mr.  John 
Fennell  gave  both  brides  away.  It  is  recorded  that  as  he  had 
the  responsibility  of  giving  the  brides  away,  he  could  not  marry 
them  ;  but  he  was  then  only  a  Wesleyan  local  preacher,  and 
therefore  was  not  qualified  to  officiate  in  church.  It  is  remark- 
able that,  at  the  very  hour  and  on  the  same  day,  two  cousins 
of  the  two  brides,  Joseph  and  Charlotte  Branwell,  were  married 
at  Madron,  the  parish  church  of  Penzance,  so  that  two  sisters 
and  four  cousins  were  married  on  the  same  day. 


36         IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS   OF   THE   BRONTES 

In  the  Gentleman's  Magazine  for  1813,  is  an  entry  recording 
the  Yorkshire  marriages  :  "  Lately  at  Guiseley,  near  Bradford, 
by  the  Rev.  William  Morgan,  minister  of  Bierley,  Rev.  P. 
Bronte,  B.A.,  minister  of  Hartshead-cum-Clifton,  to  Maria, 
third  daughter  of  the  late  T.  Bran  well,  Esq.,  of  Penzance. 
At  the  same  time,  by  the  Rev.  P.  Bronte,  Rev.  W.  Morgan, 
to  the  only  daughter  of  Mr.  John  Fennell,  Headmaster  of 
the  Wesleyan  Academy  near  Bradford." 

Guiseley,  in  Wharf edale,  is  about  three  miles  distant  from 
Woodhouse  Grove.  In  Slater's  History  of  Guiseley  is  a  list 
of  the  rectors  from  1234  ;  one  of  the  rectors,  Robert  Moore — 
whose  name  appears  in  Shirley — built  the  rectory,  and  placed 
a  curious  Latin  inscription  over  the  doorway,  which  trans- 
lated reads  :  "  Anno  domini  1601.  The  house  of  the  faithful 
pastor,  not  of  the  blind  leader  ;  not  of  the  robber  ;  the  house 
of  Robert  Moore,  rector  of  the  church,  founder  of  the  house." 

The  parish  registers,  which  date  from  1556,  contain  several 
entries  referring  to  the  ancestors  of  the  famous  American  poet, 
Henry  Wadsworth  Longfellow.  The  name  is  still  preserved 
in  the  village,  and  a  pedigree  with  notes  is  to  be  found  in 
Margerison's  Calverley  Registers. 

Of  Mrs.  Bronte,  little  is  recorded.  Mrs.  Gaskell's  informant 
described  her  as  "  extremely  small  in  person  ;  not  pretty,  but 
very  elegant,  and  always  dressed  with  a  quiet  simplicity  of 
taste,  which  accorded  well  with  her  general  character."  This 
description  would  apply  also  to  her  famous  daughter,  Charlotte, 
in  her  later  years.  Mrs.  Bronte's  quiet  personality  seems  to 
have  been  quite  overshadowed  by  her  husband,  and  the  fact 
that  she  died  eight  years  after  her  marriage  left  little  chance 
of  obtaining  much  authentic  information  ;  but  all  that  is 
known  proves  her  to  have  been  worthy  of  being  the  mother  of 
Emily  and  Charlotte  Bronte.  Maria  Bran  well  was  the  daughter 
of  Thomas  Branwell  of  Penzance,  who  had  been  a  member 
of  the  Corporation  of  that  town.  She  had  been  educated 
with  care,  and  in  religious  matters  she  had  been  trained  in  the 
tenets  of  the  Methodist  faith.  She  had  a  private  income  of 
£50  a  year,  her  parents  having  died  a  little  more  than  two 
years  before  her  marriage.  In  order  to  avoid  the  trouble  and 


THE   BRANWELLS  OF  CORNWALL  37 

expense  of  a  long  journey  to  Cornwall,  she  decided  to  send  for 
her  personal  property  and  be  married  in  Yorkshire.    Unfor- 
tunately the  boxes  were  lost  at  sea,  and  in  a  simple  and 
charming  letter  she  told  Mr.  Bronte  of  the  disaster. 

The  descendants  of  the  Branwells  were  proud  of  their  con- 
nection with  the  Brontes,  and  one  of  the  last  survivors  was 
named  Thomas,  after  Charlotte  Bronte's  maternal  grandfather, 
and  Bronte  in  honour  of  the  family  connection.  Miss  Charlotte 
Branwell,  the  sister  of  Thomas  Bronte  Branwell,  named  her 
house  Shirley,  and  so  kept  in  remembrance  her  connection 
with  the  Brontes.  Mrs.  Bronte's  mother's  maiden  name  was 
Carne,  and  both  on  the  father's  and  mother's  side  the  Branwell 
family  was  sufficiently  well  descended  to  enable  them  to  mix 
in  the  best  society  of  which  Penzance  at  that  time  could  boast. 
Miss  Elizabeth  Branwell,  Mrs.  Bronte's  elder  sister,  who  went 
to  live  at  Haworth  in  1822,  bears  this  out,  for  Miss  Ellen 
Nussey  says :  "  She  talked  a  good  deal  of  her  younger  days  ; 
the  gaieties  of  her  native  town,  Penzance,  in  Cornwall,  the  soft 
warm  climate,  etc.  The  social  life  of  her  younger  days  she 
used  to  recall  with  regret ;  she  gave  one  the  idea  that  she  had 
been  a  belle  among  her  one-time  acquaintances."  Mr.  and 
Mrs.  Bronte  commenced  housekeeping  in  a  three-storied  stone- 
built  house  in  Clough  Lane;  Hightown,  Liversedge,  there 
being  no  fixed  parsonage.  The  house  is  still  standing  ;  the 
stones  are  blackened  by  the  smoke  of  the  district  and 
the  weather,  but  otherwise  it  is  in  good  condition.  The 
centenary  anniversary  of  this  Bronte  wedding  was  celebrated 
the  29th  of  December,  1912,  but,  alas  !  there  were  no  descend- 
ants to  join  in  the  celebration  of  the  wedding  of  the  parents 
of  the  famous  novelists,  but  some  of  the  love  letters  which 
Maria  Branwell  wrote  to  Patrick  Bronte  have  been  published 
in  Mr.  Shorter 's  The  Brontes  :  Life  and  Letters.  They  are 
modest,  sincere  and  sensible,  and  they  show  that  the  writer 
had  the  saving  grace  of  humour  ;  especially  when  addressing 
"  My  dear,  saucy  Pat." 

Possibly  Mrs.  Bronte  would  have  objected  to  her  love  letters 
being  made  public.  Mrs.  Gaskell  was  allowed  to  see  them, 
but  she  refrained  from  publishing  more  than  extracts. 


38        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Charlotte  Bronte  says  she  read  them  with  a  sense  of  reverence, 
regretting  that  she  had  but  a   dim  recollection  of  her  mother. 

The  marriage  was  fortunate  in  many  respects,  and,  whatever 
may  have  been  laid  to  the  charge  of  Mr.  Bronte  in  later  years, 
the  early  years  of  his  married  life  were  happy  and  prosperous. 
He  had  a  salary  of  some  £320  per  annum,  which  to  him  must 
have  appeared  both  enough  and  to  spare.  He  has  been  blamed 
for  giving  so  much  time  to  authorship  during  his  early  married 
life,  to  the  neglect  of  his  wife,  but  it  is  quite  probable  that  she 
was  ambitious  and  urged  him  to  spend  much  of  his  time  in  his 
study,  for,  in  one  of  her  published  letters,  she  says  :  "  Let  me 
not  interrupt  your  studies,  nor  intrude  on  that  time  which 
ought  to  be  better  associated  to  better  purposes." 

The  Rev.  William  Morgan,  who  lived  not  far  away  at  Brad- 
ford, was  also  a  writer,  and  the  two  young  wives  may  have 
been  anxious  to  have  their  husbands  known  for  their  literary 
output  as  well  as  for  their  preaching,  for  both  clergymen  were 
prolific  writers,  though  their  literary  efforts  were  of  little 
value.  Mrs.  Bronte'  seems  to  have  cherished  the  desire  of 
being  an  author  herself,  for  she  has  left  just  one  little  essay 
on  The  Advantages  of  Poverty  in  Religious  Concerns,  which 
was  written  with  a  view  to  publication  in  some  periodical. 
It  was  reverently  treasured  by  her  husband,  and  it  has  now 
been  published,  after  having  been  written  nearly  a  hundred, 
years  ago. 

Patrick  Bronte  must  have  enjoyed  the  part  of  Shirley  which 
related  to  his  first  incumbency,  for  he  loved  to  tell  stories  of 
those  stirring  times.  In  spite,  however,  of  the  tumult  which'  sur- 
rounded Hartshead,  he  found  time  to  prepare  a  small  volume 
of  poems,  some  of  which  were  probably  written  in  Ireland. 

His  volume  of  Cottage  Poems  is  prefaced  by  a  long  didactic 
sermon  to  his  readers,  which  makes  rather  amusing  reading. 
His  concluding  remarks  are  written  in  the  third  person. 

"  The  Author  must  confess,  that  his  labours  have  already 
rewarded  him  by  the  pleasure  which  he  took  in  them. 

"  When  released  from  his  clerical  avocations,  he  was  occupied 
in  writing  the  Cottage  Poems  ;  from  morning  till  noon,  and  from 
noon  till  night,  his  employment  was  full  of  real,  indescribable 


COTTAGE  POEMS  39 

pleasure,  such  as  he  could  wish  to  taste  as  long  as  life  lasts. 
His  hours  glided  pleasantly  and  almost  imperceptibly  by  : 
and  when  night  drew  on  and  he  retired  to  rest,  ere  he  closed 
his  eyes  in  sleep,  with  sweet  calmness  and  serenity  of  mind, 
he  often  reflected  that,  though  the  delicate  palate  of  Criticism 
might  be  disgusted,  the  business  of  the  day,  in  the  prosecution 
of  his  humble  task,  was  well  pleasing  in  the  sight  of  God, 
and  might,  by  his  blessing,  be  rendered  useful  to  some  poor 
soul,  who  cared  little  about  critical  niceties,  who  lived  unknow- 
ing and  unknown  in  some  little  cottage,  and  whom,  perchance, 
the  Author  might  neither  see  nor  hear  of,  till  that  day,  when 
the  assembled  universe  shall  stand  before  the  tribunal  of  the 
Eternal  Judge " 

In  1813,  whilst  still  at  Hartshead,  Mr.  Bronte  published  a 
second  volume  of  poems,  The  Rural  Minstrel,  described  as  a 
miscellany  of  descriptive  poems,  by  the  Rev.  P.  Bronte,  A.B., 
minister  of  Hartshead-cum-Clifton,  near  Leeds,  Yorkshire. 
One  of  the  poems  is  entitled  Lines  addressed  to  a  Lady  on  her 
Birthday,  which  in  this  case  was  to  his  future  wife,  Maria 
Branwell.  Probably  Mr.  Bronte  lost  money  on  his  publishing 
ventures  ;  hence  his  warning  to  his  daughter  in  later  years. 

Mr.  and  Mrs.  Bronte  lived  at  the  tall  house  in  Clough  Lane, 
Hightown,  for  a  little  more  than  two  years  ;  and  their  two 
daughters,  Maria  and  Elizabeth,  were  born  there. 

In  1815  he  removed  to  Thornton,  some  twelve  miles  away, 
exchanging  livings  with  the  Rev.  Thomas  Atkinson.  One 
reason  for  the  change  was  that  his  wife,  who  was  delicate, 
wished  to  be  nearer  her  cousin  Jane,  who  had  married  the  Rev. 
William  Morgan,  vicar  of  Christ  Church,  Bradford.  Also 
her  uncle,  Mr.  John  Fennell,  had  joined  the  Church  of  England, 
and  was  a  curate  at  the  Bradford  Parish  Church.  As  Thornton 
was  only  some  three  miles  from  Bradford,  it  was  possible  for 
the  relatives  to  meet  frequently.  Another  reason  suggested 
for  the  change  was  that  the  Rev.  Thomas  Atkinson,  vicar  of 
the  Old  Bell  Chapel  at  Thornton  and  nephew  of  Hammond 
Roberson,  was  anxious  to  live  near  his  fiancee,  Miss  Walker, 
of  Lascelles  Hall,  which  is  a  curious  little  hamlet  near 
Huddersfield,  and  is  well  known  to  cricketers. 


40        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Mr.  Atkinson  married  Miss  Walker,  but  they  did  not  go  to 
the  house  vacated  by  the  Brontes,  preferring  to  rent  a  house 
known  as  Green  House,  Mirfield.  It  was  to  this  house  that 
Charlotte  Bronte  was  invited  when  a  pupil  at  Roe  Head, 
Mr.  and  Mrs.  Atkinson  being  her  god-parents.  When  she  was 
there  during  her  first  term  at  Roe  Head,  a  visitor  lifted  her  on 
her  knee,  thinking  that  Charlotte  Bronte,  who  was  very  small 
for  her  age,  was  little  more  than  a  baby  ;  she  at  once  requested 
to  be  put  down,  just  as  Polly  did  in  Villette. 

Elizabeth,  the  second  daughter,  was  born  on  8th  February, 
1815,  at  Clough  Lane,  Hightown,  but  was  not  baptised  until 
the  following  26th  August  at  Thornton.  The  entry  in  the 
Register  of  Baptisms  at  Thornton  Church  is  in  very  faint 
writing,  which  caused  it  to  be  overlooked  for  many  years . 
Moreover,  it  was  expected  that  the  entry  would  be  at 
Hartshead  Church. 

When  Patrick  Bronte  left  Hartshead  in  1815,  with  his  wife 
and  two  children — the  younger  only  a  few  months  old — he 
had  made  his  reputation  as  a  preacher,  and  was  considered  a 
scholar,  as  he  had  published  two  books. 


CHAPTER   IV 

THE   REV.    PATRICK   BRONTE   AT   THORNTON 
1815-1820 

HAPPY  days  at  Thornton — Mrs.  Gaskell's  references  to  Thornton — 
Thornton  parsonage — The  Old  Bell  Chapel — St.  James's  Church — 
Birth  of  Charlotte,  Patrick,  Emily  and  Anne  Bronte — Memorial 
tablet  on  the  Thornton  parsonage — Further  publications  by  the 
Rev.  Patrick  Bronte — Nancy  and  Sarah  Garrs. 

REFERRING  to  his  five  years'  residence  at  Thornton,  Patrick 
Bronte  wrote  in  1835,  "  My  happiest  days  were  spent  there." 
From  an  old  diary,  published  by  Prof.  Moore  Smith  in  the 
Bookman,  October,  1904,  and  written  by  his  grandmother, 
who,  as  Miss  Firth,  lived  near  the  Brontes  at  Thornton  in  her 
early  days,  it  is  evident  that  both  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Bronte  enjoyed 
themselves  in  a  quiet  way,  visiting  and  receiving  visits  from 
the  Firth  family,  who  lived  at  Kipping,  and  from  Mr.  and  Mrs. 
Morgan  and  uncle  Fennell. 

There  were  very  few  houses  in  Thornton  at  that  time,  so 
that  Patrick  Bronte  would  be  able  to  get  round  to  his  parish- 
ioners fairly  often  ;  he  was  always  a  faithful  pastoral  visitor. 
Miss  Elizabeth  Bran  well,  Mrs.  Bronte's  sister,  spent  several 
months  at  the  Thornton  parsonage  in  1815  and  1816,  and  as 
she  is  constantly  referred  to  in  the  diary,  it  is  probable  that 
she  was  responsible  for  some  of  the  social  intercourse  between 
the  Brontes  and  prominent  families  in  the  neighbourhood, 
and  was  able  to  render  help  to  Mrs.  Bronte  in  the  management 
of  her  young  family. 

Thornton,  as  the  birthplace  of  Patrick  Bronte's  famous 
children — Charlotte,  born  21st  April,  1816  ;  Patrick  Bran  well, 
26th  June,  1817  ;  Emily  Jane,  30th  July,  1818  ;  and  Anne, 
17th  January,  1820 — had  not  received  the  recognition  which 
it  deserved,  until  Mr.  William  Scruton  published  a  booklet 
on  the  birthplace  of  Charlotte  Bronte  in  1884,  and  fourteen 
years  afterwards  an  interesting  work  on  Thornton  and  the 
Brontes.  The  family,  however,  only  lived  in  Thornton  for 
five  years,  and  there  is  little  personal  history  to  record,  but 

41 


42        IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

as  the  birthplace  of  the  two  famous  sisters  it  deserves  to  rank 
as  the  first  Bronte  shrine.  Mrs.  Gaskell  described  the  neigh- 
bourhood as  "  desolate  and  wild  ;  great  tracts  of  black  land 
enclosed  by  stone  dykes,  sweeping  up  Clayton  heights."  She 
and  her  husband  drove  from  Bradford  to  Haworth  by  Thornton 
and  Denholme.  Except  in  the  summer  time  or  early  autumn, 
the  moors  in  this  part  of  Yorkshire  present  a  dreary  appear- 
ance to  a  stranger,  but  to  those  who  can  see  beauty  in  lonely 
grandeur  the  moors  at  all  times  are  far  from  being  so  desolate 
as  Mrs.  Gaskell  described  them. 

It  is  unfortunate  that,  in  this  matter,  other  writers  have 
adopted  Mrs.  Gaskell 's  description,  and  the  New  York  Sun,  in 
reviewing  Mrs.  Gaskell's  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  referring  to 
this  district  at  the  time  when  Patrick  Bronte  lived  there  said  : 
"  It  was  a  drear,  desolate  place,  and  that  with  the  exception  of 
the  Fiji  islanders,  the  Yorkshire  people  were,  perhaps,  the 
wildest  and  doggedest  existing."  The  West  Riding  folk  were 
naturally  very  indignant,  and  to  this  day  they  keenly  resent 
Mrs.  Gaskell's  account  of  themselves  and  their  district.  They 
affirm  that  Yorkshire  is  much  more  civilised  than  Lancashire, 
and  they  contrast  the  beauties  of  the  Yorkshire  moors  and  dales 
with  the  slums  not  far  from  Mrs.  Gaskell's  home  in  Manchester. 

It  could  not  have  been  either  the  place  or  the  situation  that 
caused  Patrick  Bronte  to  speak  of  the  happiness  which  he 
enjoyed  in  Thornton,  for  the  district  is  much  more  bleak  and 
desolate  than  Hartshead.  Nor  was  the  house  an  improvement, 
judging  by  the  number  of  rooms  and  its  position  in  Market 
Street.  Moreover,  St.  James's  Church— the  Old  Bell  Chapel, 
as  it  was  called — was  not  so  pleasing  an  edifice  as  St.  Peter's, 
Hartshead.  The  chief  attraction  which  Thornton  had  for 
Patrick  Bronte  was  of  a  social  and  family  nature,  and  Bradford, 
within  walking  distance,  had  its  subscription  library,  of  which 
Mr.  Bronte  was  a  member.  There  were  also  in  the  neighbour- 
hood of  Thornton  several  influential  families,  who  took  an 
interest  in  the  new  vicar  and  his  wife. 

The  district  is  far  from  prepossessing  to-day.  Thornton 
is  now  a  busy  manufacturing  part  of  Bradford,  with  a  popula- 
tion of  from  6,000  to  7,000.  It  can  be  approached  by  train 


THE  THORNTON   DISTRICT  43 

or  tram  from  Bradford.  The  huge  woollen  mills,  which 
have  supplanted  the  hand-looms — a  mode  of  manufacture 
common  for  the  previous  500  years — find  work  for  the  greater 
part  of  the  people.  Thornton  was  incorporated  with  the  City 
of  Bradford  in  1899. 

When  Patrick  Bronte  went  to  live  at  Thornton,  the  people 
were  mostly  hand-loom  weavers.  Thornton  Hall  and  Leven- 
thorp  Hall,  both  of  which  are  still  standing,  though  greatly 
altered  and  now  turned  into  cottages,  show  that  the  district 
was  not  deserted  by  the  wealthier  classes.  In  Domesday  Book 
Thornton  is  spelt  Torenton — the  town  of  thorns — and  it  is 
said  to  have  got  its  name  from  the  number  of  thorn  bushes 
to  be  found  in  the  neighbourhood.  In  Jane  Eyre,  Jane  lives 
at  Thornfield,  and  afterwards  flees  to  Morton,  which  is  Moor 
Town.  Thornton  is  only  six  miles  distant  from  Ha  worth, 
but  it  is  less  interesting,  being  more  bleak  and  unsheltered. 
Charlotte  Bronte,  in  her  introduction  to  Selections  from  the 
literary  remains  of  Ellis  and  Acton  Bell,  gives  a  very  faithful 
picture  of  the  district,  which  applies  to  Thornton  as  well  as 
to  Haworth  :  "  The  scenery  of  these  hills  is  not  grand — it 
is  not  romantic  ;  it  is  scarcely  striking.  Long,  low  moors — 
with  heath,  shut  in  little  valleys,  where  a  stream  waters,  here 
and  there,  a  fringe  of  stunted  copse.  Mills  and  scattered 
cottages  chase  romance  from  these  valleys  ;  it  is  only  higher 
up,  deep  in  amongst  the  ridges  of  the  moors,  that  Imagination 
can  find  rest  for  the  sole  of  her  foot ;  and  even  if  she  finds 
it  there,  she  must  be  a  solitude-loving  raven,  no  gentle  dove." 

Though  the  hills  are  dreary  and  desolate,  the  valleys  are  not 
to  be  despised.  Pinchbeck  valley  in  summer  time  is  a  pleasant 
enough  spot. 

The  Thornton  Parsonage,  to  which  Patrick  Bronte  and  his 
family  removed  in  1815,  was  in  many  respects  similar  to  the 
house  at  Hightown,  near  Hartshead.  It  was  built  of  Yorkshire 
stone,  quarried  from  the  immediate  neighbourhood,  but  it 
had  not  so  many  bedrooms  and  was  only  two  storeys  high. 
It  is  still  standing  in  the  middle  of  Market  Street,  and  many 
Bronte  pilgrims  wend  their  way  to  this  neighbourhood  to  see 
the  house  made  famous  as  being  the  birthplace  of  their  literary 


44        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

heroine.  The  house  has  been  altered,  and  in  front  of  the  room 
in  which  the  four  younger  children  were  born  a  butcher's  shop 
has  been  built.  Fortunately  the  owner  has  spared  the  room 
in  which  Charlotte,  Branwell,  Emily  and  Anne  first  saw  the 
light.  It  stands  on  the  ground  floor  to  the  right  of  the  entrance. 
It  was  quite  usual  in  those  days  to  have  a  sort  of  state-room 
downstairs — half  parlour  and  half  spare  bedroom — "  where 
the  children  made  their  first  appearance,  and  where  the  heads 
of  the  household  lay  down  to  die  if  the  Great  Conqueror  gave 
them  sufficient  warning. "  Moreover,  all  the  rooms  in  the  upper 
part  of  the  house  were  occupied,  one  as  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Bronte's 
bedroom,  a  small  one  as  a  dressing-room,  another  as  Patrick 
BrontS's  study,  one  small  room  at  the  back  of  the  house  as  the 
children's  bedroom,  and  another  as  the  servant's  bedroom. 
The  room  to  the  left  of  the  entrance,  on  the  ground  floor,  was 
the  family  dining-room,  and  behind  this  was  the  kitchen. 

There  is  still  to  be  seen  the  old  fire-grate  in  which  a  fire  was 
lit  to  take  off  the  chill  on  that  April  morning  in  1816  when 
Charlotte  Bronte  was  born.  An  attempt  was  made  to  sell  the 
house  by  public  auction  in  the  spring  of  1911,  but  the  owners 
were  disappointed  by  the  offers  made,  and  it  was  withdrawn. 
The  auctioneer  remarked  that  he  had  expected  a  ship-load  of 
Americans  competing  to  pui chase  it.  The  Bronte  Society 
was  represented,  but  did  not  venture  to  offer  such  a  price  as 
would  tempt  the  owners  to  part  with  it. 

The  Bell  Chapel,  to  which  Patrick  Bronte  was  appointed  in 
1815,  is  now  in  ruins,  and  only  one  end  of  the  old  edifice  is  left 
standing  in  the  midst  of  many  blackened  tombstones.  It  is 
close  by  the  main  road  on  which  the  trams  from  Bradford 
pass  continually.  Bronte  pilgrims  have  worn  a  narrow  path 
from  the  road  to  the  ruins.  Some  have  thought  that  the  Bell 
Chapel  at  Thornton  was  the  one  in  Emily  Bronte's  mind  when 
she  wrote  Wuthering  Heights.  It  was  old  and  dilapidated 
at  the  time  she  was  writing,  and  she  and  her  sister,  when 
walking  over  Denholme  moors  to  Bradford,  would  pass  the 
old  chapel  in  which  they  were  baptized.  The  churchyard  in 
which  Cathy,  Edgar  Linton,  and  Heathcliff  were  buried 
answers  well  to  the  description. 


Photo  by 


Percival  M.  Chadwick 


THORNTON   VICARAGE 


THE  BELL  CHAPEL,  THORNTON       45 

When  Catherine  Linton  was  buried,  Emily  Bronte  says  of 
her  grave  :  "It  was  dug  on  a  green  slope  in  a  corner  of  the 
kirk-yard,  where  the  wall  is  so  low  that  heath  and  bilberry 
plants  have  climbed  over  it  from  the  moor ;  and  peat  mould 
almost  buries  it." 

This  description  fitted  the  Old  Bell  Chapel  graveyard.  The 
chapel  itself  was  built  by  a  freemason  over  300  years  ago. 
On  the  west  gable  were  inscriptions  on  two  stones,  dated  1587 
and  1612.  The  interior  of  the  chapel  at  one  time  contained 
some  ancient  monumental  tablets  of  local  interest.  The 
building  itself  had  the  appearance  of  a  Dissenting  chapel, 
except  for  the  cupola  and  bell.  When  Patrick  Bronte  was 
appointed  to  the  living  at  Thornton  he  made  many  alterations 
— re-roofing  the  chapel,  rebuilding  the  south  side,  and  adding 
a  cupola  to  the  tower. 

Until  a  few  years  ago,  a  stone  font  might  have  been  seen 
among  the  debris  of  the  ruins  of  the  chapel.  A  worthy  devotee 
of  the  Brontes  was  instrumental  in  getting  it  transferred  to 
the  vestibule  of  the  new  church  of  St.  James,  which  is  built  on 
the  opposite  side  of  the  road.  Within  the  church  is  another 
stone  font  of  still  earlier  date.  The  opinion  was  expressed 
by  an  old  inhabitant  of  Thornton  that  this  font  has  been  used 
for  christening  in  the  open  air,  but  the  present  vicar  thinks  it 
is  really  an  old  holy-water  stoup. 

Until  a  short  time  ago  there  was  to  be  seen  at  the  "  Black 
Horse,"  an  old  inn,  not  far  from  the  church,  a  stone  horse- 
mount,  for  the  use  of  worshippers  who  attended  church  in 
the  time  of  the  pillion.  The  Old  Bell  Chapel  was  formerly 
the  only  place  of  worship  connected  with  the  Church  of  Eng- 
land between  Ha  worth  and  Bradford.  Both  Ha  worth  Church 
and  Thornton  Church  were  built  as  chapels-of-ease  to  the 
Bradford  Parish  Church,  another  chapel-of-ease  being  built 
at  Low  Moor,  a  few  miles  from  Bradford. 

The  new  church  of  St.  James  was  built  in  1870,  and  the 
present  vicar,  anxious  for  a  new  organ  which  should  be  worthy 
of  the  church,  decided  to  appeal  to  the  devotees  of  the  Brontes. 
The  project  of  a  Bronte  organ  was  taken  up  with  great  enthu- 
siasm in  Thornton,  and  ten  working  men  offered  to  raise  ten 


46        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

pounds  each — a  promise  which  they  were  not  long  in  fulfilling. 
The  organ  cost  £1,200,  and  with  the  exception  of  one  fifty 
pound  note,  which  came  from  a  former  parishioner  settled  in 
America,  the  bulk  of  the  money  was  raised  in  Thornton  and 
the  surrounding  neighbourhood.  It  was  a  matter  for  dis- 
appointment to  those  who  were  responsible  for  the  raising  of 
the  funds  that  more  support  was  not  obtained  from  the  Bronte 
devotees  who  resided  at  a  distance  from  Thornton.  A  small 
brass  plate  on  the  organ  bears  this  inscription — 

"  THE  BRONTE  MEMORIAL  ORGAN 

1897  " 

In  the  vestry  is  an  oak  chest,  which  has  been  in  use  since 
1685,  and  in  it  are  the  church  registers,  now  almost  unde- 
cipherable. One  interesting  volume  contains  the  entry  of  the 
baptisms  of  the  four  children  of  Patrick  Bronte,  who  were  born 
at  Thornton. 

In  1902  the  Council  of  the  Bronte  Society  affixed  an  engraved 
brass  memorial  tablet  on  the  old  parsonage.  It  reads — 

"  In  this  house  were  born  the  following  members  of  the 
Bronte  family. 

CHARLOTTE    1816 
BRAN  WELL    1817 
EMILY    1818 
ANNE    1820" 

Although,  according  to  Miss  Firth's  diary,  Mrs.  Bronte 
appears  to  have  had  some  social  enjoyment  and  exchanged 
visits  with  her  neighbours,  in  company  with  her  husband  and 
her  sister,  Miss  Elizabeth  Branwell,  she  must  have  had  a  very 
busy  life  with  her  young  family.  Her  second  child  was  only 
a  few  months  old  when  she  went  to  Thornton,  and  before  she 
left,  five  years  afterwards,  the  family  had  increased  to  six. 
There  was  not  a  room  in  the  house  that  could  well  be  spared 
for  a  nursery.  Miss  Branwell,  who  was  with  Mrs.  Bronte 
when  Charlotte  was  born,  and  for  some  months  afterwards, 
needed  accommodation,  and,  with  the  general  servant  and 
nursemaid,  there  was  a  household  of  eleven  in  this  little 
parsonage.  Mrs.  Bronte  must  have  been  a  very  capable 
manager  for  her  husband  to  be  able  to  say  that  his  happiest 


NANCY   GARRS  47 

days  were  spent  at  Thornton.  It  was  during  his  stay  here 
that  he  published  a  small  volume — The  Cottage  in  the  Wood, 
or  the  Art  of  becoming  rich  and  happy — and  he  has  also  been 
credited  with  a  story  which  formed  another  volume — The 
Maid  of  Killarney,  or  Albion  and  Flora,  a  tale,  in  which  are 
interwoven  some  cursory  remarks  on  religion  and  politics. 
No  author's  name  is  attached  to  the  book.  Altogether  Patrick 
Bronte  could  now  claim  to  be  the  writer  of  four  small  volumes  ; 
they  were,  however,  such  that  literature  would  not  have  been 
much  the  poorer  if  he  had  never  published  them,  but  they 
show  evidence  of  a  thoughtful  mind,  and  if  too  didactic  they 
are  artless  and  sincere.  In  a  small  house  filled  with  children, 
with  a  husband  busy  with  writing  and  preparing  sermons, 
Mrs.  Bronte's  task  must  have  been  by  no  means  an  easy  one. 
It  is  noticeable  that  Mr.  Bronte  did  not  publish  any 
poems  after  he  lived  at  Thornton  ;  the  muse  from  this  point 
appears  to  have  left  him. 

The  old  servants  of  the  Thornton  Vicarage — Nancy  and 
Sarah  Garrs — had  nothing  but  kind  remembrances  of  Mr.  and 
Mrs.  Bronte.  Shortly  after  the  family  went  to  reside  at 
Thornton,  Mrs.  Bronte  felt  it  necessary  to  engage  a  second 
servant,  and  Mr.  Bronte  applied  to  the  Bradford  School  of 
Industry.  It  was  thus  that  Nancy  Garrs  became  nurse  in 
the  Bronte  family,  and  she  was  with  Mrs.  Bronte  when  Charlotte 
Emily  Jane,  Patrick  Branwell,  and  Anne  were  born. 

Nancy  Garrs  married  a  Patrick  Wainwright,  and  the  old 
nurse  was  proud  in  after  years  to  tell  how  Patrick  Bronte 
entered  the  kitchen  one  day  at  Ha  worth,  saying  :  "  Nancy 
is  it  true,  what  I  have  heard,  that  you  are  going  to  marry  a 
Pat  ?  "  "  It  is,"  replied  Nancy,  "  and  if  he  prove  but  a  tenth 
part  as  kind  a  husband  to  me  as  you  have  been  to  Mrs.  Bronte, 
I  shall  think  myself  very  happy  in  having  made  a  Pat  my 
choice." 

Nancy  Garrs,  like  others  who  were  associated  with  the 
Brontes  in  their  early  days,  regretted  that  she  had  not  a  better 
memory  to  recall  the  doings  and  sayings  of  the  little  Brontes, 
but  as  the  old  servant  would  say  pathetically  :  "I  never 
thought  they  would  have  become  so  much  thought  of,  or  I 


48        IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS   OF  THE   BRONTES 

would  have  been  sure  to  have  taken  more  notice. "  Nancy's 
work  of  washing,  dressing  and  feeding  this  young  family  left 
little  time  for  observing  the  ways  of  the  children,  but,  when 
they  became  famous  as  writers,  her  pride  was  very  real.  She 
continued  with  the  family  after  Mrs.  Bronte's  death,  and  once 
when  she  was  ill  with  fever  in  Bradford,  Charlotte  Bronte 
visited  her  and,  regardless  of  infection,  rushed  to  the  bed  and 
kissed  her  old  nurse,  bursting  into  tears  to  find  her  so  ill. 

Unfortunately,  this  faithful  nurse  died  in  the  Bradford 
workhouse  on  26th  March,  1886,  at  the  age  of  eighty-two, 
and  she  is  buried  in  the  Undercliff  Cemetery. 

Sarah  Garrs,  sister  of  Nancy  Garrs,  became  second  nurse 
at  the  Thornton  parsonage  as  the  family  increased  so 
rapidly.  She  afterwards  became  Mrs.  Newsome,  and  emi- 
grated to  America,  where  she  delighted  to  tell  of  her  early 
days  with  the  Bronte  family.  She  claimed  that  her  correct 
name  was  de  Garrs. 

These  two  servants;  who  accompanied  the  Bronte  family 
to  Haworth,  considered  they  had  been  libelled  by  Mrs.  Gaskell 
in  her  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  where  she  wrote  :  "  There  was 
plenty,  and  even  waste  in  the  house,  with  young  servants, 
and  no  mistress  to  look  after  them."  Both  sisters  appealed 
to  Mr.  Bronte,  when  they  found  that  they  were  publicly 
branded  as  wasteful,  and  the  old  vicar,  in 'order  to  mollify 
their  injured  feelings,  wrote  out  for  them  the  following 
testimonial,  which  may  be  seen  in  the  Bronte  Museum. 

"  HAWORTH,  August  17th,  1857. 

"  I  beg  leave  to  state  to  all  whom  it  may  concern,  that 
Nancy  and  Sarah  Garrs,  during  the  time  they  were  in  my 
service,  were  kind  to  my  children,  and  honest  and  not  wasteful, 
but  sufficiently  careful  in  regard  to  food,  and  all  other  articles 
committed  to  their  care. 

"P.  BRONTE,  A.B., 
"  Incumbent  of  Haworth,   Yorkshire." 


CHAPTER  V 

HAWORTH 

1820-1824 

THE  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte  offered  the  incumbency  of  Haworth  by  the 
Vicar  of  Bradford — The  trustees  claim  to  share  in  the  appointment — 
The  Rev.  Samuel  Redhead — Disorderly  scenes  in  Haworth  Church — 
Mrs.  Gaskell's  account — Mr.  Bronte's  appointment  as  Vicar  of 
Haworth — Journey  from  Thornton  to  Haworth — The  Haworth 
parsonage — The  Vicar's  trials  and  difficulties — Haworth  village — 
The  Haworth  moors — Haworth  customs — The  villagers  and  the 
publication  of  the  Bronte  novels — Changes  at  Haworth — Death 
of  Mrs.  Bronte. 

AFTER  five  successful  years  as  incumbent  of  the  Old  Bell 
Chapel  at  Thornton;  Patrick  Bronte  was  offered  the  perpetual 
curacy  of  the  Church  of  St.  Michael  and  All  Angels,  Haworth, 
which,  like  Thornton,  was  a  Chapel  of  Ease  to  the  Bradford 
Parish  Church.  It  was  distant  from  Thornton  about  six 
miles  over  the  moors.  This  was  the  fourth  Yorkshire  church 
with  which  Patrick  Bronte  became  associated. 

The  appointment  as  incumbent  of  Haworth  was  offered  by 
the  Vicar  of  Bradford,  the  Rev.  R.  H.  Heap,  who  considered 
he  had  the  right  of  presentation.  The  living  was  accepted  by 
the  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte,  who  was  very  much  surprised  shortly 
afterwards  to  receive  a  courteous  letter  from  the  trustees  of 
the  Haworth  church,  stating  that  they  had  no  personal  objec- 
tion to  him,  but,  as  they  had  not  been  consulted  about  the 
matter,  they  must  decline  to  accept  him  as  their  clergyman. 
They  claimed  a  joint  right  with  the  Vicar  of  Bradford  in 
appointing  a  minister,  as  it  remained  with  them  to  provide 
a  part  of  the  stipend. 

When  this  was  brought  to  Mr.  Bronte's  notice,  he  withdrew 
his  acceptance  of  the  post,  as  he  sympathised  with  the  trustees 
and  wrote  urging  them  to  hold  out  against  the  Vicar  of 

49 

4— (2200) 


50        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONT&S 

Bradford  on  his  behalf,  as  otherwise  they  were  in  danger  of 
obtaining  "  an  inferior  man."  This  assumption  of  his  own 
superiority  to  other  candidates  was  put  in  rather  a  simple 
way.  His  letters  to  the  trustees  are  still  in  existence.  This, 
as  may  be  expected,  smoothed  his  path  when  he  subse- 
quently became  the  clergyman  at  Ha  worth.  Mrs.  Gaskell, 
in  her  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  did  not  get  the  exact  facts  of  the 
case.  She  says  :  "  Owing  to  some  negligence,  this  right  (of 
the  trustees)  has  been  lost  to  the  freeholders  and  trustees  at 
Haworth."  The  trustees,  however,  had  not  forfeited  their 
rights,  but  still  retained  certain  powers,  and  on  the  death  of 
the  Rev.  James  Charnock,  who  was  the  clergyman  at  Haworth 
from  1791  to  1819,  they  determined  to  enforce  their  rights. 

After  Mr.  Bronte's  withdrawal  in  June,  1819,  there  was  a 
struggle  between  the  Vicar  of  Bradford  and  the  trustees  of 
Haworth  church,  which  lasted  for  nearly  a  year.  During 
this  interregnum,  a  Rev.  W.  Anderton  officiated  frequently, 
and  in  the  following  November  the  Rev.  Samuel  Redhead, 
who  had  often  taken  duty  for  Mr.  Charnock  during  his  illness, 
officiated  at  a  funeral  at  Haworth  church.  It  was  this 
Mr.  Redhead  who  was  nominated  for  the  living  by  the  Vicar 
of  Bradford  after  Mr.  Bronte's  withdrawal.  He  accepted 
the  appointment,  but  was  only  allowed  to  attempt  to  officiate 
for  three  weeks,  for  the  trustees  were  determined  not  to  be 
coerced,  and  they  were  supported  by  the  parishioners.  Then 
ensued  the  disorderly  scenes  which  gave  Haworth  an  unenviable 
reputation  for  years.  Some  of  the  old  inhabitants,  whom  the 
writer  has  questioned,  were  prepared  to  substantiate  in  the 
main  Mrs.  Gaskell's  graphic  account  of  the  church  riots, 
when  Mr.  Redhead  insisted  on  carrying  out  his  duties  in  the 
parish  church.  They  take  some  of  the  sting  somewhat  out 
of  the  account  by  stating  that  the  chimney-sweep,  who  clam- 
bered into  the  pulpit  on  the  third  Sunday,  was  half-witted, 
and  not  drunk,  and  referring  to  the  wearing  of  clogs  they 
maintain  that  the  regular  worshippers,  and  in  fact  the  working 
people  of  the  district,  were  in  the  habit  of  wearing  boots  on 
Sunday,  and  that  the  clogs  were  worn  by  the  roughs,  who  had 
come  from  the  neighbouring  villages,  and  even  from  across 


DISORDERLY  SCENES   IN   HAWORTH  CHURCH  51 

the  Lancashire  borders,  and  who  were  determined  to  make  as 
much  noise  as  possible  when  leaving  the  church. 

Mr.  Redhead  became  curate  of  Calverley,  not  far  from 
Apperley  Bridge,  in  1823,  and  died  in  1845.  His  memoir  was 
published  in  1846.  Mr.  Bronte  was  not  anxious  to  refer  to 
the  riotous  scenes  of  1820,  and  when  questioned  by  Mrs. 
Gaskell  he  merely  said,  "  My  predecessor  took  the  living  with 
the  consent  of  the  Vicar  of  Bradford,  but  in  opposition  to  the 
trustees ;  in  consequence  of  which  he  was  so  opposed 
that,  after  three  weeks'  possession,  he  was  compelled  to 
resign." 

There  is  no  doubt  that  the  trustees  of  Haworth  church  were 
justified  in  their  contention,  as  can  be  proved  by  documents 
in  the  possession  of  the  rector  of  Haworth.  The  origin  of  the 
dispute  goes  much  further  back  than  the  registers  which  are 
now  in  existence.  The  present  rector  of  Haworth,  the  Rev. 
T.  W.  Story,  M.A.,  wrote  a  series  of  notes  on  the  old  Haworth 
registers  in  the  Parish  Magazine  ;  and  later  he  published 
them  in  book  form.  He  has  searched  the  oldest  registers, 
though  he  says  in  some  cases  they  are  only  copies,  and  are 
in  the  eighteenth  century  characters  and  phraseology.  From 
these  documents  he  shows  that  Mrs.  Gaskell,  in  her  Life  of 
Charlotte  Bronte,  was  wrong  when  she  said  that  Haworth 
church  stands  on  what  was  most  probably  the  site  of  an  ancient 
(Saxon)  field-kirk  or  oratory,  and  as  she  gives  no  evidence 
in  support  of  her  statement,  it  is  most  likely  based  on  mere 
conjecture. 

Mr.  Story,  to  whom  I  am  indebted  for  the  particulars  from 
his  Notes  on  the  old  Haworth  registers,  says — 

"  The  earliest  reference  to  Haworth  '  Chapel '  in  the  Arch- 
bishop's Registers  at  York  is  1317.  A  monition  was  then 
issued  commanding  the  Rector  and  Vicar  of  Bradford  and  the 
freeholders  of  Haworth  to  pay  to  the  Curate  the  salary  due  to 
him  in  the  proportions  to  which  they  had  been  liable  from 
ancient  times.  From  this  we  may  fairly  conclude  that  a 
Chapel  existed  at  Haworth  considerably  earlier  than  1300. 
The  Rector  of  Bradford  was  the  owner  of  the  '  great  tithes,' 
the  Vicar  was  his  deputy  and  owner  of  the  '  small  tithes.'  A 


52        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

similar  monition  stating  definitely  the  amounts  due  to  the 
*  Curate  '  from  the  various  sources  was  issued  in  1320.  The 
Rector  of  Bradford  was  commanded  to  pay  twenty  shillings, 
the  Vicar  of  Bradford  two  marks  and  a  half,  and  the 
inhabitants  of  Ha  worth  one  mark."  Archbishop  Melton's 
Register. 

When  chantries  were  confiscated  in  the  first  year  of  Edward 
VI,  the  whole  income  of  the  Ha  worth  curacy  appears  to  have 
been  seized.  How  the  curate  was  supported  between  that 
time  and  the  second  year  of  Queen  Elizabeth  does  not  appear, 
but  at  the  latter  date  a  public  subscription  was  made  in  the 
parish  by  which  a  sum  of  £36  was  raised.  With  this  sum, 
several  farms  at  Stanbury — the  village  adjoining  Ha  worth — 
were  purchased.  The  rents  were  to  be  paid  by  trustees  to 
the  curate  of  Haworth,  but  a  clause  was  inserted  in  the  deed, 
by  which  a  condition  was  made  that,  if  the  trustees  did  not 
concur  in  the  appointment,  they  had  power  to  devote  the 
income  to  the  poor,  until  such  time  as  an  appointment  was 
made  in  which  they  did  concur.  Therefore  the  appointment 
remained  with  the  Vicar  of  Bradford,  but  the  trustees  held  the 
purse,  and  could  thus  secure  a  share  in  the  choice  for  themselves. 
Mr.  Story  says  the  document  is  a  very  long  one. 

It  was  the  claim  based  on  this  ancient  deed  that  caused  the 
trouble  when  Mr.  Bronte  was  first  appointed  to  the  "  per- 
petual curacy  of  Haworth  "  ;  but  this  was  not  the  only  time 
when  the  trustees  asserted  their  rights.  After  the  death  of 
the  Rev.  William  Grimshaw  in  1763  the  then  trustees,  Robert 
Heaton  and  John  Greenwood,  warned  the  Archbishop  of  York 
against  agreeing  to  an  appointment  apart  from  their  con- 
currence, so  that  Mrs.  Gaskell  and  other  writers  on  the  sub- 
ject have  been  wrong  in  referring  to  the  rights  of  the  trustees 
as  "  a  foolish  claim  to  antiquity." 

After  Mr.  Redhead's  resignation,  the  Vicar  of  Bradford 
nominated  other  clergymen,  but  the  trustees  stood  firm  and 
refused  to  consider  their  appointment.  Whilst  this  struggle 
was  proceeding,  Patrick  Bronte  wrote  several  ingenuous  letters 
to  the  trustees,  urging  them  to  support  his  claim,  he  was 
evidently  anxious  to  obtain  the  appointment.  As  he  had 


MR.   BRONTE  APPOINTED  VICAR  53 

approved  of  the  rights  of  the  trustees  being  recognised,  they 
concluded  that  the  difficulty  would  be  settled  if  they  asked 
that  Mr.  Bronte  should  be  appointed  to  the  curacy.  As  the 
Vicar  of  Bradford  had  previously  nominated  Mr.  Bronte, 
he  agreed  to  their  suggestion  and  the  appointment  was  made. 
The  letters  which  Mr.  Bronte  wrote  to  the  Trustees  at  this 
time  were  read  by  the  present  Rector  of  Haworth  a  few 
years  ago. 

Mr.  Bronte's  appointment  dated  from  29th  February,  1820, 
eight  months  after  the  beginning  of  the  trouble  between  the 
trustees  of  Haworth  church  and  the  Vicar  of  Bradford. 

Considering  the  difficulties  which  had  arisen  in  connection 
with  the  vacancy  at  Haworth  church,  it  was  necessary  that 
the  new  Vicar  should  begin  his  duties  as  soon  as  possible, 
and  no  time  was  lost  by  Mr.  Bronte.  His  wife  and  family, 
however,  did  not  remove  to  Haworth  until  the  following  May 
or  June,  though  more  than  one  writer  has  pictured  the  wife 
and  family  driving  in  an  open  cart  over  the  bleak  moors 
between  Thornton  and  Haworth  in  February  or  the  early 
part  of  March.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  the  journey  was  not  in 
the  cold  weather.  There  is  no  doubt  that  Patrick  Bronte* 
would  have  some  rough  and  cold  journeys  when  walking 
from  Haworth  to  Thornton  during  the  first  few  months  of 
his  ministry  at  Haworth.  The  old  inhabitants  used  to  tell 
of  the  arrival  at  Haworth  of  the  eight  carts,  seven  containing 
the  furniture,  and  a  covered  wagon  containing  Mrs.  Bronte 
and  her  six  little  children,  the  eldest  not  seven  years  old  and 
the  youngest  a  few  months  old,  Mr.  Bronte  walking  by  the 
side  of  the  covered  wagon,  occasionally  lifting  one  of  the  children 
from  the  conveyance  in  order  to  enjoy  a  little  exercise,  for  the 
rate  of  progress  along  the  rough  moorland  road  would  only 
be  slow.  The  cavalcade  toiled  up  Thornton  Heights  towards 
Denholme,  and  by  way  of  Flappit  Springs  and  Braemoor, 
reaching  the  steep  Haworth  main  street  late  in  the  afternoon. 
The  people  were  much  interested  in  the  procession,  which 
wound  its  way  round  by  the  Black  Bull,  in  front  of  the  church 
gates,  and  up  the  narrow  passage  to  the  Haworth  parsonage. 
Having  left  Thornton  they  entered  their  last  home,  which  was 


54         IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

to  become  famous  in  later  days  because  of  the  work  done  by 
two  of  the  little  girls  in  that  family  group. 

The  parsonage  is  still  standing  in  the  old  churchyard,  though 
it  has  been  enlarged  since  the  days  of  the  Brontes,  a  new  wing 
having  been  added,  consisting  of  a  dining-room  with  bedrooms 
above. 

The  house  stands  on  high  ground,  and  stretching  behind 
are  the  moors  from  which  most  glorious  sunsets  may  often  be 
seen,  even  in  November.  The  accommodation  was  scarcely 
sufficient  for  the  Bronte  family,  though  it  was  an  improvement 
on  the  Thornton  parsonage.  One  point  in  its  favour  was  that 
it  had  a  more  retired  position — the  little  garden  in  front  was 
a  more  sheltered  place  for  the  children,  and  in  many  ways 
better  than  the  street  at  Thornton,  and  it  was  also  nearer  the 
church.  The  house  is  not  so  desolate  and  depressing  as  it  is 
usually  depicted  ;  the  chief  objection  is  the  adjoining  grave- 
yard. The  high  stone  wall  with  the  little  gate  on  the  side  of 
the  Church  Lane  now  screens  it  from  the  gaze  of  the  passers- 
by,  and,  if  Mrs.  Bronte  had  not  been  delicate  when  she  arrived, 
the  family  might  have  found  great  pleasure  in  the  new  home. 
The  Ha  worth  parsonage  was  a  comparatively  new  house, 
having  been  built  forty-eight  years  before  Patrick  Bronte 
and  his  family  took  possession.  The  previous  vicarage  had 
been  some  distance  away  on  the  moors,  near  what  was  known 
as  Penistone  quarry  ;  it  is  still  in  existence  under  the  name  of 
Sowdens.  There  it  was  that  the  well-known  William  Grimshaw 
— the  friend  of  Wesley — lived  and  died.  On  the  left  of  the 
flagged  passage  of  the  parsonage  leading  from  the  front  door  was 
the  combined  dining  and  sitting-room,  whilst  on  the  right  was 
Patrick  Bronte's  study.  Over  the  sitting-room  was  the  bed- 
room in  which  Charlotte  Bronte  died,  and  over  the  study  was 
Mr.  Bronte's  bedroom.  A  small  dressing-room  without  a 
fireplace,  and  measuring  ten  feet,  including  the  window  recess, 
by  five  feet  nine  inches,  was  used  as  the  children's  nursery 
or  study  in  the  early  days  ;  no  wonder  the  six  little  Brontes 
developed  consumption.  Behind  the  two  bedrooms  were  two 
other  small  rooms  for  the  children  and  the  servants.  On  the 
ground  floor  behind  the  vicar's  study  was  the  kitchen,  whilst 


m 


THE   PARSONAGE,   HAWORTH  55 

the  corresponding  room  behind  the  family  sitting-room  was 
a  small  lumber-room,  sometimes  used  as  a  peat-house,  which 
Charlotte  Bronte  tells  us  she  afterwards  cleared  out  and 
arranged  as  a  study  in  1854  for  her  husband,  the  Rev.  A.  B. 
Nicholls. 

As  the  front  door  opens,  it  reveals  the  staircase,  with  its 
old  oak  bannisters  ;  to  the  left  is  the  corner  in  which  Emily 
Bronte  punished  her  favourite  dog,  Keeper.  The  house  is 
full  of  memories,  and  the  old-fashioned  window  seats  remind 
readers  of  Jane  Eyre,  and  of  her  partiality  for  hiding  herself 
in  the  recesses  of  the  windows. 

The  parsonage  was  built  about  1774,  but  the  old  faded  copy 
of  the  house-deed  is  extremely  difficult  to  decipher,  owing  to 
the  indistinct  writing  and  abbreviations.  This  deed  contains 
the  same  conditions  with  regard  to  the  appointment  of  minister 
as  the  church-deed  of  1559.  Thus  the  parsonage  does  not  come 
under  the  ordinary  rules  which  are  usually  applied  to  rectories 
and  vicarages,  which  have  been  conveyed  absolutely,  and  it 
is  not  affected  by  the  "  Dilapidations  Act  "  and  other  similar 
Acts.  It  is  exceptional  if  not  unique  in  this  respect. 

This,  however,  was  not  to  the  advantage  of  the  tenant  in 
Mr.  Bronte's  days,  for  he  repeatedly  drew  the  attention  of  the 
trustees  to  the  insanitary  condition  of  the  house,  but  without 
any  redress.  There  were  certain  rooms  which  then  were 
damp  and  unhealthy.  The  old  vicarage  at  Sowdens  was 
much  better  situated,  and  it  would  have  been  healthier  if  the 
new  vicarage  had  been  built  near  the  old  one.  There  is  a 
reference  in  one  of  the  registers  of  the  church  to  the  old  building. 
In  1763  is  an  entry  made  by  a  former  minister — the  Rev. 
Isaac  Smith — the  last  in  his  beautiful  writing — 

"  May  15th,  1739,  at  6  o'clock  in  the  Evening,  the  Houses  in 
Haworth  called  the  Parsonage  were  solemnly  Dedicated  and 
so  Named,  with  Prayers,  Aspersions,  Acclamations,  and 
Crossings  by  I.S.,"  etc. 

The  difficulties  connected  with  his  appointment  to  Haworth 
tended  to  make  Patrick  Bronte  reserved  and  reticent  in  his 
dealings  with  the  trustees  and  parishioners,  and  this  is  the  true 
explanation  of  his  somewhat  unsociable  habits  at  Haworth 


56        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

compared  with  Thornton,  where  he  was  free  and  communica- 
tive, always  feeling  at  one  with  the  people,  and  even  with  the 
Dissenters,  who  were  rather  numerous  and  aggressive.  An 
additional  reason  for  his  change  of  habit  could  be  attributed 
to  Mrs.  Bronte's  illness,  which,  shortly  after  leaving  Thornton, 
was  diagnosed  as  cancer.  The  result  was  that  visitors  could 
not  be  offered  hospitality,  and  the  young  children  had  to  be 
kept  quiet  for  fear  of  disturbing  the  invalid  mother.  Had 
she  been  well  and  strong,  the  chances  are  that  the  whole  family 
would  have  been  more  sociable,  and  the  shyness,  from  which 
all  except  the  son  never  escaped,  would  not  have  developed 
to  such  an  extent  that  the  sight  of  a  strange  face  became  a 
positive  source  of  pain  to  the  children,  and  caused  them  to 
suffer  miserably  from  nervous  self -consciousness.  Whatever 
may  have  been  said  against  Patrick  Bronte  in  those  days, 
his  early  life  at  Ha  worth  was  full  of  anxiety  and  trouble. 
The  people  of  the  district  certainly  deserved  some  of  the  censure 
which  Mrs.  Gaskell  passed  on  them.  In  the  church  register 
is  a  notice  concerning  a  meeting  which  Mr.  Bronte  called — 

64  Whereas  a  number  of  ill-behaved  and  disorderly  persons 
have  for  a  long  period  colleagued  together  not  only  to  destroy 
the  property  but  also  to  endanger  the  lives  of  the  peaceful 
Inhabitants  of  the  Township,  in  consequence  of  which  Notice 
is  hereby  given  that  a  Meeting  will  be  held  in  the  Vestry  of 
this  Church  on  Tuesday  the  1st  of  January,  1822,  at  2  o'clock 
in  the  Afternoon,  in  order  to  adopt  such  measures  as  may  be 
conducive  to  Peace  and  Tranquility." 

Ha  worth  is  now  a  most  peaceable  and  law-abiding  place, 
and  it  is  possible  that  the  association  which  Patrick  Bronte 
formed  had  something  to  do  in  changing  the  character  of  the 
district,  but  it  is  easy  to  see  why  he  kept  up  the  practice, 
which  he  had  begun  at  Hartshead  during  the  Luddite  riots, 
of  carrying  a  loaded  pistol  about  with  him.  It  lay  on  the 
dressing  table  at  night,  with  his  watch.  In  the  morning  he 
discharged  it,  and  then  re-loaded  it,  placing  it  in  his  pocket 
as  he  did  his  watch.  He  continued  this  custom  to  the  end 
of  his  life,  and,  even  on  his  death-bed,  he  sent  for  the  local 
watchmaker  to  regulate  the  trigger. 


HAWORTH  VILLAGE  57 

Before  the  construction  of  the  Worth  Valley  railway,  the 
village  was  more  or  less  isolated,  and  the  villagers,  especially 
the  women,  seldom  travelled  beyond  the  confines  of  their  own 
borders.  This  isolation  fostered  a  spirit  of  independence, 
which  is  still  a  characteristic  of  the  people.  Ha  worth  is 
divided  into  two  parts  by  the  railway,  which  is  almost  parallel 
with  the  river  Worth,  thus  avoiding  any  great  engineering 
difficulties.  The  old  part  of  Haworth  consists  of  one  long, 
steep  street,  the  middle  of  which  can  be  reached  from  the 
station  by  a  rough  cinder  path,  the  incline  towards  the  end 
being  so  great  as  to  cause  the  casual  visitor  to  pause  in  order 
to  get  breath  for  the  rest  of  the  journey.  Vehicles  from  the 
station  pass  over  the  railway  bridge  and  then  begin  to  climb 
the  hill  to  the  church  and  West  Lane  on  the  summit.  In 
order  to  assist  the  horses  to  get  a  footing,  the  stones  which 
are  used  for  paving  the  road  are  set  edge-ways,  and  in  des- 
cending the  hill  it  is  necessary  for  conveyances  to  use  very 
powerful  brakes.  The  opposite  side  of  the  valley  from  the 
station  is  known  as  The  Brow  ;  it  is  this  part  of  Haworth 
which  has  developed  in  recent  times,  many  substantial  and 
well-built  houses  having  been  erected  for  the  artisans  who 
work  at  the  large  mills  in  this  part  of  the  parish. 

The  old  houses  and  shops  have  been  built  close  to  the  road, 
with  no  forecourt,  and  even  many  of  the  new  houses,  as  is 
common  in  industrial  districts,  are  only  separated  from  the 
main  road  by  a  narrow  footpath.  Although  land  is  cheap, 
little  space  is  allowed  for  gardens,  the  somewhat  bleak  climate, 
and  the  long  winter  and  comparatively  short  summer,  not 
being  very  favourable  to  the  cultivation  of  flowers  or  vegetables. 

As  the  carts  make  their  way  up  the  hill,  the  driver  may  be 
seen  firmly  holding  the  bridle  and  exchanging  greetings  with 
the  villagers  at  the  doors  of  the  houses.  The  windows  of  the 
old  cottages  are  low  and  wide,  since  the  front  rooms  were 
originally  intended  for  a  hand-loom.  The  ceilings  are  low, 
as  is  usually  the  case  in  cottages  built  during  the  early  part 
of  the  nineteenth  century.  The  West  Riding  of  Yorkshire 
has  long  been  famous  for  its  woollen  industry,  and  in  the  early 
days  the  hand-loom  played  a  prominent  part.  One  solitary 


58         IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

hand-loom  remains  in  Haworth,  and  this  is  kept  as  a  memento 
in  a  cottage  on  the  moors,  and  was  in  use  until  last  year, 
when  "  the  owd  weaver,"  Timmy  Feather,  died  ;  with  him 
departed  the  hand-loom  weaving  of  the  Haworth  district. 

The  old  part  of  Haworth,  with  its  houses  dotted  over  the 
western  slope  of  the  hill,  is  connected  with  the  moors  by  West 
Lane.  The  names  over  the  shop  doors  are  essentially  York- 
shire, and  are  the  same  as  many  which  appear  in  the  Bronte 
novels. 

Mr.  G.  R.  Sims  having  made  a  pilgrimage  to  Haworth  in 
September,  1903,  humorously  described  his  visit  in  the 
Referee,  much  to  the  indignation  of  the  villagers,  for  he 
describes  Haworth  as  "  the  city  of  the  dead."  When  the 
writer  inquired  about  his  visit  a  year  or  two  afterwards,  a 
sturdy  native,  adopting  a  menacing  attitude,  replied  :  "  Yes 
he's  been  here  once,  and  if  ever  he  comes  again  he'll  get 
mobbed  ;  we  don't  go  to  London  and  then  return  to  Haworth 
and  write  skittish  articles  about  Cockneys." 

What  struck  Mr.  G.  R.  Sims  as  very  peculiar  is  not  difficult 
for  a  Northerner  to  understand.  At  the  top  of  the  village 
street  he  saw  a  confectioner's  shop  with  the  announcement 
"  Funeral  teas."  He  entered,  with  the  intention  of  appeasing 
his  hunger  and  adding  to  his  stock  of  local  knowledge.  Ad- 
dressing the  head  of  the  establishment  he  remarked  :  "  If  you 
please,  ma'am,  I  want  a  funeral  tea." 

"  A  funeral  tea  !  "  exclaimed  the  astonished  proprietress, 
curiously  surveying  the  stranger ;  "  but  there  is  no  funeral 
to-day." 

Mr.  Sims,  however,  had  set  his  heart  on  a  funeral  tea,  and 
would  not  be  denied  ;  he  had  never  before  heard  of  the  expres- 
sion, and  was  determined  to  find  out  what  it  meant.  He 
insisted,  therefore,  upon  being  served  with  precisely  the  kind  of 
tea  which  was  supplied  to  a  real  funeral  party  ;  and  now  he 
strongly  recommends  all  Bronte  admirers  going  to  Haworth 
to  have  a  funeral  tea,  assuring  them  out  of  the  fulness  of  his 
experience  that  they  will  not  forget  it. 

Patrick  Bronte,  with  his  knowledge  of  the  funeral  customs 
in  Ireland,  found  no  difficulty  in  complying  with  the  wishes 


MAIN    STREET.    HAWORTH 


HAWORTH  CUSTOMS  59 

of  his  Ha  worth  parishioners  at  any  funerals  he  conducted, 
for  he  describes  very  graphically  an  Irish  wake  in  one  of  his 
books.  Not  only  did  he  conduct  the  funeral  service,  but  he 
frequently  attended  the  meal  which  followed,  departing  as 
soon  as  the  tea  was  finished. 

Funerals  in  Haworth  even  in  the  poorest  homes  are  con- 
ducted with  the  greatest  reverence  and  decorum,  though  in 
several  respects  the  old  customs,  which  still  survive,  would 
possibly  give  a  wrong  impression  to  a  stranger. 

The  Sunday  school  processions,  followed  by  a  tea,  still  take 
place  at  Haworth  as  they  did  in  the  Bronte  days.  In  the 
diary  of  the  Rev.  Henry  Nussey,  kindly  lent  to  me  by  Mr. 
J.  J.  Stead  of  Heckmondwike,  is  a  description  of  a  Yorkshire 
Sunday  School  Anniversary— 

"Friday,  Aug.  24th  (1832).  To-day  the  Church  Sunday 
School  Festival  was  celebrated.  The  ladies  and  gentlemen 
connected  with  the  school,  the  teachers  and  children,  met  in 
the  school  at  half -past  one.  A  hymn  was  sung,  and  prayers 
were  read  by  the  Vicar,  after  which  the  prizes  in  books  were 
distributed.  All  then  proceeded  to  Church,  where  there 
was  singing  and  an  address  from  Mr.  W.  Heald,  jnr.,  to 
parents,  teachers,  and  scholars.  They  then  walked  round  the 
village,  and  returned  to  the  school,  where  they  sung  in  the 
school-yard,  and  after  this  all  the  scholars  were  regaled,  the 
girls  with  buns  and  tea,  and  the  boys  with  buns,  beer  and 
porter.  These  were  afterwards  dismissed,  and  the  ladies  and 
gentlemen  sat  down  with  the  female  teachers,  having  had 
beer  and  porter,  etc.  At  eight  o'clock  supper  was  introduced, 
consisting  of  the  Old  English  cheer,  roast  beef,  plum-pudding 
and  good  beer,  to  which  from  80  to  100  sat  down.  The  day 
then  concluded  with  music  and  singing." 

There  are  even  now  a  few  inhabitants  of  Haworth  who 
remember  Charlotte  Bronte  presiding  at  one  of  the  tea-tables, 
with  her  Sunday  school  scholars  as  her  guests.  She  found  the 
ordeal  somewhat  trying,  and  escaped  as  soon  as  possible.  As 
the  Yorkshire  people  say,  "  She  took  all  in,"  and  the  descrip- 
tion of  a  Sunday  school  tea-party  in  Shirley  abundantly  proves 
how  observant  she  was.  Emily  did  not  attend  the  village 


60        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

tea-meetings,  nor  was  she  a  teacher  in  the  Sunday  school, 
and  yet  she  was  a  great  favourite,  and  everybody  loved  her. 
She  was  the  best  looking  of  the  three,  and  possibly  her  very 
reserve  was  an  advantage  to  her,  as  she  was  brought  less  in 
touch  with  the  inhabitants  of  Haworth,  and  consequently 
she  had  fewer  opportunities  of  offending  them,  whilst  Charlotte, 
as  Sunday  school  teacher,  day-school  visitor  and  needle- 
work inspector,  was  considered  to  be  very  strict  and  particular 
in  dealing  with  the  children. 

Good  food  and  plenty  has  always  been  the  rule  in  Haworth, 
and  in  this  respect  Haworth  customs  differ  from  those  in 
Cr  an  ford,  for  "  elegant  economy  "  was  not  de  rigeur  in  Haworth, 
though  the  villagers  had,  and  still  have,  a  real  genius  for  saving 
money.  Thrift  is  a  virtue  that  everybody  practises,  and 
extravagance  a  weakness  which  finds  no  sympathy  in  that 
moorland  village. 

If  thrift  is  in  the  blood  of  the  natives,  scrupulous  cleanliness 
is  the  outside  mark  of  virtue.  Though  the  working  people 
wear  clogs,  and  shawls  are  used  by  the  women  as  a  covering 
for  the  head  in  no  unpicturesque  fashion,  the  homes  are 
spotlessly  clean.  There  is  much  to  be  said  both  for  the  clogs 
and  the  shawls  in  a  district  which  gets  an  abundant  supply 
of  rain  and  wind,  and  where  the  by-roads  are  rough  and  heavy. 
As  in  Cranford,  pattens  are  still  worn  by  the  women  when 
swilling  the  flags  in  front  of  the  house  or  the  "  yard  "  at  the 
back,  or  when  hanging  out  the  clothes. 

The  old  inhabitants  of  Haworth  have  always  resented 
the  account  which  Mrs.  Gaskell  gave  of  the  village  in  her 
Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  and  they  would  like  the  earlier 
chapters  in  the  book  either  entirely  erased  or  re- written. 
Visitors  come  to  Haworth  to  see  the  Bronte  shrines  with  a  firm 
prejudice  against  the  place  and  the  people,  and  there  is  no 
doubt  that  Mrs.  Gaskell  in  some  respects  failed  to  appreciate 
much  that  was  worthy  both  in  the  place  and  in  the  villagers. 

The  inscriptions  on  the  graves  in  the  old  churchyard  and 
cemetery  bear  evidence  to  the  general  healthiness  of  the 
locality,  many  octogenarians  being  buried  there. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  records  the  leaving  of  the  doors  open  as  a  fault, 


THE  HAWORTH  MOORS  61 

but,  as  the  low  windows  in  many  cases  were  not  made  to  open, 
it  was  to  the  credit  of  the  people  that  they  breathed  the  fresh 
air  by  the  open  door,  and  it  certainly  tended  to  their  general 
good  health  and  longevity.  An  open  door,  a  good  fire,  winter 
and  summer,  which  of  itself  facilitates  the  ventilation  of  the 
room  most  used,  plenty  of  plain,  wholesome  food,  with  exercise 
up  and  down  those  rugged  hills,  and  the  sound  sleep  which 
followed,  made  the  people  a  long-lived  race.  The  village  is 
built  mainly  on  high  ground,  and  is  known  for  miles  around 
as  "  Bonnie  Ha  worth."  Now  the  moors  are  known  as  a 
health  resort,  and  visitors  have  difficulty  in  obtaining  accom- 
modation in  August  and  September.  As  Charlotte  Bronte 
says  in  Shirley,  "  Our  England  is  a  bonny  land,  and  Yorkshire 
is  one  of  her  bonniest  nooks." 

Many  who  visit  Haworth  in  the  summer  are  charmed  with 
the  beauty  of  the  moors,  and  are  surprised  to  find  the  village 
very  much  better  than  they  imagined  from  what  has  been 
written  of  it.  The  parsonage  is  far  from  being  the  miserable 
dreary  place  which  it  has  been  pictured.  At  the  present  time 
the  graveyard  is  hidden  by  the  bushy  trees,  and  the  garden 
and  lawn  are  well  kept.  The  old  fruit  trees  and  currant  bushes 
which  Emily  tended  so  lovingly  are  gone.  In  the  garden  are 
the  remains  of  the  old  stocks  which  used  to  be  fixed  near  the 
church,  but  the  "  gate  of  the  dead  "  through  which  the  mem- 
bers of  the  Bronte  family  were  carried,  from  the  front  door 
and  along  the  garden,  then  through  the  gate  into  the  church- 
yard, has  disappeared.  This  gate  was  only  used  in  the  BrontS 
days  for  funerals  from  the  parsonage.  Mrs.  Bronte  was  the 
first  to  be  carried  through,  and  Patrick  Bronte  was  the  last, 
with  an  interval  of  forty  years. 

There  is  still  to  be  seen  in  the  village  the  remnant  of  an  old 
ducking-stool.  It  dates  back  to  the  time  when  women  were 
occasionally  treated  with  much  barbarity.  It  is  said  to  have 
been  used  in  Haworth  for  brawling  women  and  dishonest 
bakers.  Mr.  John  B.  Smith,  the  Wesleyan  schoolmaster  at 
Haworth  during  the  Bronte  period,  had  a  picture  which  repre- 
sented women  being  ducked  in  one  of  the  ponds  of  the  neigh- 
bourhood. Mr.  Smith  was  one  of  those  who  lived  in  Haworth 


62        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONT&S 

when  the  identity  of  Jane  Eyre  was  discovered,  and  as  secre- 
tary of  the  Mechanics'  Institute  he  wrote  to  Charlotte  Bronte 
to  tell  her  that,  as  an  acknowledgment  of  her  gift  to  the 
Institute  of  a  copy  of  Jane  Eyre,  the  committee  had  elected 
her  a  life  member.  Mr.  Smith  used  to  tell  of  Charlotte  Bronte 
being  prevailed  upon  "  to  take  a  tray  "  at  the  Institute  soire'e, 
and  how  she  presided  with  quiet  dignity — scarcely  speaking 
to  anyone  but  the  faithful  servant,  Martha  Brown,  whom  she 
had  taken  with  her  to  assist  in  the  serving.  Mr.  Smith 
attended  Charlotte  Bronte's  funeral,  and  he  was  the  possessor 
of  several  Bronte  relics,  amongst  which  was  an  old,  well- 
thumbed  Latin  grammar,  which  had  been  used  by  Charlotte. 
This  former  Wesleyan  schoolmaster  was  one  of  the  first  to 
acclaim  Emily  Bronte  the  greatest  genius  of  this  remark- 
able family,  and  his  daughter  was  christened  Emily  Jane  in 
remembrance  of  the  author  of  Wuthering  Heights. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  mentions  the  musical  talent  of  the  people  of  the 
Ha  worth  district.  This  is  quite  in  keeping  with  the  love  of 
music  so  characteristic  of  Yorkshire  people  in  general.  The 
bracing  air,  and  especially  their  broad,  open  vowel  sounds, 
distasteful  as  they  may  be  to  very  refined  ears,  offer  a  medium 
of  voice-training  which  cannot  be  equalled  in  any  part  of  the 
country,  unless  it  be  among  the  Welsh  hills.  Haworth  has 
long  been  famous  for  its  interest  in  music,  especially  among 
its  industrial  workers.  Not  being,  as  a  class,  specially  interested 
in  literature,  they  spend  the  long  winter  evenings  in  attaining 
proficiency  either  in  singing  or  in  the  mastery  of  some  musical 
instrument. 

Mrs.  Bronte's  brief  life  in  Haworth  only  extended  over 
eighteen  months,  for,  a  few  months  after  her  arrival  at  the 
parsonage  with  her  six  little  children,  she  was  taken  seriously 
ill,  and  the  doctor  declared  her  to  be  suffering  from  internal 
cancer.  Charlotte  had  just  one  brief  recollection  of  her, 
playing  in  the  twilight  with  her  only  boy,  in  whom  probably 
she  took  a  greater  pride  than  in  her  daughters. 

Had  the  mother  been  well  how  different  it  might  have 
been  for  those  clever  children,  and  yet  their  very  sufferings 
seemed  necessary  to  the  completion  of  their  lives;  what  they 


DEATH   OF   MRS.   BRONTE  63 

learnt  in  suffering  they  gave  forth  in  song.  Had  they  not 
suffered,  they  might  never  have  written  anything  worth  adding 
to  the  world's  literature.  All  that  is  known  of  Mrs.  Bronte  is 
that  she  was  good,  gentle  and  patient,  and  in  her  last  trying 
illness  her  husband  nursed  her  tenderly,  and  she  has  left  on 
record  that  he  never  gave  her  an  angry  word. 

The  illness  was  hopeless  from  the  first,  and  it  is  not  to  be 
wondered  at  that  the  house  had  to  be  kept  very  still,  and  the 
children  got  into  the  habit  of  moving  about  as  quietly  as  possible. 

Maria,  the  eldest,  had  to  look  after  the  others  and  help 
Nancy  and  Sarah  Garrs  as  best  she  could.  The  old  servants 
remembered  how  interested  Mrs.  Bronte  was  to  the  very  last 
in  her  children,  though  she  could  only  see  them  at  intervals, 
and  one  at  a  time,  as  it  upset  her. 

The  younger  servant  taught  the  girls  needlework,  and 
Charlotte  is  credited  with  making  a  chemise  at  five  years  old, 
and  when  it  was  shown  to  the  mother  she  was  much  pleased 
with  her  little  daughter's  neat  work. 

Mrs.  Bronte  died  on  21st  September,  1821,  and  the  little 
gate  at  the  end  of  the  garden  was  opened  to  let  the  sad  funeral 
through.  All  the  Brontes  except  Anne  are  buried  in  Haworth. 

Mrs.  Bronte's  illness  had  been  sufficient  excuse  for  lack  of 
neighbourliness,  and  after  her  death  the  bereaved  husband 
had  little  desire  to  enter  into  any  society  ;  his  family  needed 
all  the  time  he  could  spare  from  his  clerical  duties,  and  the 
sociable  Vicar  of  Thornton,  who  had  enjoyed  the  little  tea 
parties  with  his  wife  at  Kipping,  became  a  recluse,  and  his 
children  had  to  find  their  pleasures  on  the  moors,  or  in  the 
kitchen  with  the  servants,  the  father  taking  some  of  his  meals 
in  the  little  study,  and  giving  lessons  to  his  children  there.  It 
is  not  a  matter  for  surprise  that  Mr.  Bronte  was  sad,  but  in 
later  years  he  became  very  popular  in  the  district. 

It  was  in  these  early  days  at  Haworth  that  the  children 
really  began  writing,  for  the  father  made  a  practice  of  telling 
them  stories  to  illustrate  a  geography  or  history  lesson,  and  they 
had  to  write  it  out  the  next  morning.  Consequently  they 
thought  it  out  in  bed — a  habit  Charlotte  continued  all  her  life 
in  connection  with  her  stories. 


CHAPTER  VI 

COWAN   BRIDGE 
JULY,    1824 — JUNE,   1825 

THE  hamlet  of  Cowan  Bridge — The  Clergy  Daughters'  School — 
Memorial  tablet— The  Rev.  W.  Cams- Wilson— Mrs.  Gaskell's 
account — Reasons  for  sending  the  Bronte  children  to  the  school — 
Miss  Elizabeth  Branwell — Death  of  Maria  and  Elizabeth  Bronte — 
Schools  associated  with  the  Brontes — School  life  at  Cowan  Bridge — 
The  school  records — The  Cove,  Silverdale — Withdrawal  of  the 
children  from  the  school — Tunstall  Church — Correspondence  in 
the  press  concerning  Cowan  Bridge  School. 

A  VISIT  to  Cowan  Bridge,  where  part  of  the  Lowood  School 
of  Jane  Eyre  is  still  in  existence,  reveals  a  beautiful  little 
hamlet  near  Kirkby  Lonsdale.  A  drive  from  the  hotel  in 
Kirkby  Lonsdale,  where,  in  the  old  coaching  days  the  con- 
veyance in  which  the  Bronte  sisters  travelled  made  its  last 
halt,  takes  one  over  the  Devil's  Bridge,  a  narrow  stone  struc- 
ture, which  spans  the  river  Lune,  and  after  a  quarter  of  an 
hour's  drive  Cowan  Bridge  is  reached. 

The  descent  from  the  bridge  takes  the  traveller  to  the  little 
hamlet  of  Cowan  Bridge,  nestling  at  the  foot  of  the  hill  close 
by  the  river  Leek,  a  small  tributary  of  the  Lune.  The  hamlet 
is  divided  by  a  bridge  near  what  was  once  the  garden  of 
the  Clergy  Daughters'  School. 

Here  was  the  first  school  to  which  the  Bronte  sisters  were 
sent.  It  is  a  pleasant  spot  even  to-day  ;  the  trees  shelter  the 
cottages,  and  the  high  hills  protect  the  place  from  the  east 
wind. 

Through  Cowan  Bridge  the  Leeds  and  Kendal  coach  used 
to  pass,  and  in  the  days  when  the  Brontes  were  there  it  was 
busier  than  now,  for  not  only  did  the  stage  coaches  pass  to 
and  fro,  but  the  pack-horses  were  constantly  on  the  road,  taking 
the  wool  from  the  outlying  districts  to  Leeds  and  Bradford. 
The  little  stream,  with  the  huge  stones  in  its  bed,  flowing 
past  the  old  school,  Charlotte  Bronte  described  as  her  favourite 
spot  when  at  Cowan  Bridge.  Along  its  banks  she  used  to 

64 


COWAN   BRIDGE  SCHOOL  65 

wander,  frequently  taking  off  her  shoes  and  stockings  and 
wading  in  its  waters.  Here  she  was  free  from  intrusion,  and 
could  enjoy  her  broken  day  dreams. 

In  later  years  she  told  Mary  Taylor  how  she  enjoyed  this 
beautiful  spot,  sitting  on  a  stone  in  the  middle  of  the  stream. 
Mary  told  her  she  should  have  gone  fishing,  but  she  replied 
that  she  had  no  inclination. 

When  visiting  Cowan  Bridge  on  the  anniversary  of  Charlotte 
Bronte's  admission  to  the  school  it  was  interesting  to  find  a 
commemorative  medallion  had  been  fixed  on  the  gable-end 
of  the  cottages,  which  once  formed  the  rooms  for  the  teachers 
of  the  school.  On  the  medallion  are  the  names  of  the  four 
Bronte  sisters,  with  the  dates  of  their  stay  at  the  school. 

"  AT  THIS  SCHOOL 

MARIA 
ELIZABETH 
CHARLOTTE 

EMILY 

DAUGHTERS  OF  THE  REV.   P.   BRONTE 
WERE  EDUCATED  IN    1824-1825" 

A  large  sycamore  tree  overhangs  the  end  cottage,  and  on  the 
opposite  side  of  the  road  is  a  small  house,  now  known  as 
Lowood  Cottage.  It  was  formerly  the  Rev.  W.  Cams- Wilson's 
stable  and  coach-house  ;  he  was  the  founder  of  the  Clergy 
Daughters'  School,  and  known  in  Jane  Eyre  as  the  black 
marble  clergyman — Mr.  Brocklehurst.  In  addition  to  being 
the  manager  of  the  school,  he  was  vicar  of  two  parishes, 
Tunstall  and  Whittington,  which  were  a  few  miles  apart. 

Formerly  the  old  part  of  the  school  consisted  of  one  house, 
at  one  time  the  residence  of  an  old  Yorkshire  family  of  the  name 
of  Picard.  This  building  was  purchased  in  1824  by  Mr.  Carus- 
Wilson,  who  adapted  it  as  a  residence  for  the  teachers  of  the 
school.  At  right  angles  to  this  he  added  a  long  building  for 
a  school-room  and  dormitories  for  the  pupils.  Mrs.  Gaskell 
made  a  mistake,  which  many  writers  on  the  Brontes  have 
copied,  when  she  said  that  this  part  of  the  school  had  once 
been  a  factory  for  the  manufacture  of  bobbins  from  the  wood 
of  the  alder  trees  which  were  abundant  in  the  neighbourhood. 


66        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

It  was  converted,  eight  years  after  it  was  built,  into  a  bobbin 
factory,  when  the  Clergy  Daughters'  School  was  removed  to 
Casterton,  some  two  or  three  miles  away  on  the  higher  ground. 

Charlotte  Bronte  gives  her  own  graphic  description  of 
Cowan  Bridge  in  Jane  Eyre,  as  she  remembered  it,  twenty-two 
years  after  she  left. 

It  is  a  pity  that  Mrs.  Gaskell  and  other  writers  have  com- 
mented only  on  Charlotte  Bronte's  description  of  Lowood  in 
winter,  for  during  her  stay  from  August,  1824,  to  June,  1825, 
she  had  the  benefit  both  of  the  autumn  and  the  spring.  The 
garden  was  always  a  source  of  attraction  to  her — 

"  The  garden  was  a  wide  enclosure,  surrounded  with  walls  so 
high  as  to  exclude  every  glimpse  of  prospect ;  a  covered 
verandah  ran  down  one  side,  and  a  broad  walk  bordered  a 
middle  space  divided  into  scores  of  little  beds  :  these  beds 
were  assigned  as  gardens  for  the  pupils  to  cultivate,  and  each 
bed  had  an  owner." 

In  these  days,  when  it  is  considered  quite  a  modern  move- 
ment to  interest  children  in  rural  and  suburban  schools  in 
gardening,  it  is  well  to  remember  that  nearly  ninety  years  ago 
the  pupils  at  this  school  for  clergymen's  daughters  were 
encouraged  to  keep  a  small  plot  of  garden  in  good  order,  so 
that  they  might  be  interested  in  such  work,  and  have  their 
powers  of  observation  improved. 

Why  and  how  these  children  of  the  Ha  worth  vicar  came  to 
be  pupils  at  the  Cowan  Bridge  School  is  easily  explained. 
Mrs.  Bronte  had  been  dead  for  three  years.  Even  before  her 
death,  if  a  Thornton  authority  may  be  trusted,  Maria, 
Charlotte's  elder  sister,  when  only  seven  years  of  age,  had  been 
accustomed  to  walk  from  Thornton  to  Bradford  with  her 
father  and,  perched  on  a  high  stool  at  the  printer's  office, 
had  frequently  helped  to  correct  the  proofs  of  his  books. 
This  wonderful  child  was  able  to  converse  with  her  father  on 
any  leading  topic  of  the  day  with  as  much  freedom  and  pleasure 
as  a  grown  person — so  Mr.  Bronte  informed  Mrs.  Gaskell. 
After  the  mother's  death  Maria  had  to  act  as  house-mother, 
assisting  in  the  education  of  the  five  younger  children,  and 
keeping  the  nursery  in  order. 


CORRESPONDENCE  WITH  MARY   BURDER      67 

But  it  is  evident  that  Maria  was  too  young  to  superintend 
the  home  ;  the  children  needed  some  one  to  take  their  mother's 
place,  and  Mr.  Bronte  certainly  did  his  best  to  provide  a  suit- 
able stepmother.  He  appealed  to  Miss  Elizabeth  Bran  well, 
his  wife's  elder  sister.  Having  known  Mr.  Bronte  through  her 
visits  to  Thornton,  and  having  a  very  sincere  interest  in  her 
sister's  children,  she  left  her  home  in  Penzance  for  ever,  and 
came  "  with  her  best  japanned  dressing-box,  her  inlaid  work- 
boxes,  her  fashionable  dresses,  and  big  fancy  caps  "  to  cold, 
bleak  Haworth,  in  order  to  fulfil  what  was  said  to  be  a  sacred 
promise  to  her  dead  sister  to  look  after  her  nephew  and  five 
nieces.  Although  Miss  Branwell  had  charge  of  the  Bronte 
home  for  about  twenty  years,  either  she  had  no  intention  at  first 
of  remaining  at  Haworth  or  she  found  the  task  too  great,  for 
about  this  time  Mr.  Bronte  proposed  to  Miss  Firth,  a  lady  of 
means,  and  a  good  friend  of  the  Brontes  when  living  at 
Thornton.  She  was  also  the  godmother  of  the  second  and 
youngest  daughters.  But  Mr.  Bronte  was  unsuccessful, 
though  Miss  Firth  always  took  an  interest  in  the  Brontes, 
even  after  she  married  the  Rev.  Charles  Franks  of  Hudders- 
field,  and  in  her  diary,  which  is  still  in  existence,  she  states 
that,  when  on  her  honeymoon,  she  visited  Maria,  Elizabeth 
and  Charlotte  Bronte  at  Cowan  Bridge  School,  and  gave  each 
of  them  half-a-crown.  Mr.  Bronte  then  approached  Mary 
Burder,  his  old  sweetheart  of  the  Wethersfield  days,  who 
was  still  unmarried,  a  pleasant,  homely  woman  of  thirty-eight. 

It  was  in  1823  that  Mr.  Bronte*  wrote  to  Mary  Burder  and, 
as  Mr.  Birrell  says,  "  besought  her  to  be  his  wife  and  the  mother 
of  his  six  motherless  children."  The  correspondence  which 
passed  between  Mr.  Bronte  and  Mary  Burder,  after  the  death 
of  Mrs.  Bronte  has  recently  been  published  by  Mr.  Shorter 
in  The  Sphere.  From  these  letters  it  is  evident  that  Mary 
Burder  considered  that  she  had  not  been  treated  honourably 
by  Patrick  Bronte  when  a  curate  at  Wethersfield,  and  she 
unhesitatingly  refused  to  entertain  his  proposal  in  1823.  His 
first  letter  is  dated  April  23rd,  1823,  and  was  directed  to  Mrs. 
Burder,  and  in  it  he  tells  the  story  of  his  life  since  leaving 
Wethersfield,  entering  into  detail  with  regard  to  his  position 


68        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

at  Ha  worth.  The  second  letter  was  to  Mary  Burder  herself, 
and  was  dated  July  28th,  1823,  and  in  it  he  requests  permis- 
sion to  call  upon  her,  after  referring  to  the  death  of  his  wife 
and  to  his  "  small  but  sweet  little  family,"  and  adding  "  I 
must  say  that  my  ancient  love  is  rekindled."  The  reply, 
which  was  long  and  dated  August  8th,  1823,  was  not  only  a 
refusal,  but  one  couched  in  such  terms  as  must  have  surprised 
Patrick  Bronte.  She  thanks  Providence  which  "  withheld 
me  from  forming  in  very  early  life  an  indissoluble  engagement 
with  one  whom  I  cannot  think  was  altogether  clear  of  duplicity." 

After  an  interval  of  eighteen  months,  Mr.  Bronte  again 
requested  permission  to  wait  upon  her,  but  in  the 
meantime  Mary  Burder  had  married  the  Dissenting  minister 
of  Wethersfield,  and  the  letter  remained  unanswered. 

After  Mr.  Bronte's  failure  to  obtain  a  wife,  he  appears  to 
have  given  up  all  ideas  of  matrimony  and  Miss  Branwell  took 
her  place  as  housekeeper  in  the  home  ;  she  had  an  income  of 
fifty  pounds  a  year,  and  preferred  to  pay  her  own  expenses, 
so  as  not  to  add  to  the  burden  of  the  household.  She  had  the 
mid- Victorian  woman's  respect  for  "  the  cloth,"  and  it  is 
said  she  agreed  better  with  men  than  with  women,  enjoying 
the  visits  of  the  neighbouring  clergy. 

She  was  never  popular  with  the  servants,  and  the  children 
were  not  in  the  habit  of  regarding  her  with  affection,  for  she 
was  prim,  severe,  and  "  a  bit  of  a  tyke,"  as  one  of  the  servants 
told  me.  All  her  ideas  were  fixed  when  she  came  to  Ha  worth, 
and  it  was  difficult  for  her  to  fit  in  with  this  strange  household. 
She  thought  her  nieces  peculiar  to  prefer  books  and  animals 
to  new  dresses  and  gossip.  These  girls  puzzled  her,  remem- 
bering her  own  happy  days  in  Penzance.  Her  nieces  were 
awkward  and  shy.  Elizabeth,  her  namesake,  was  gentle  like 
the  Branwells :  Maria  was  untidy :  Charlotte  was  most 
excitable  and  hot-tempered  :  Emily  had  "  the  eyes  of  a  half- 
tamed  creature,"  and  cared  for  nobody's  opinion,  only  being 
happy  with  her  animal  pets.  Miss  Branwell  found  her  greatest 
joy  in  baby  Anne,  and  in  the  handsome  Branwell,  who  was  to 
be  the  pride  of  the  family. 

Those  who  once  remembered  her  told  the  writer  that  she 


MISS  ELIZABETH  BRANWELL  69 

was  never  to  be  seen  without  a  shoulder  shawl,  and  several 
of  these  shawls  are  still  in  existence.  Shades  of  purple  and 
mauve  were  her  favourite  colours.  Her  caps,  if  large,  were 
always  dainty,  and  her  dresses  good  and  becoming — a  black 
silk  being  her  favourite  for  afternoon  wear.  Fine  dresses 
were  not  suitable  for  the  stone  floors  and  rough  roads  of 
Haworth,  but  in  order  to  keep  her  dainty  shoes  dry  and  avoid 
the  damp  floors  she  was  in  the  habit  of  wearing  pattens, 
much  to  the  annoyance  of  her  nieces,  whose  sensitive  nerves 
were  irritated  by  the  constant  and  peculiar  click  of  the  iron 
rings  on  the  stone  floors.  Though  the  children — except, 
perhaps,  Anne  and  Branwell — never  came  to  love  her,  they 
respected  her,  and  her  word  was  law. 

Miss  Branwell  deserves  praise  for  her  housekeeping  and  the 
careful  training  which  the  Bronte  girls  received  in  domestic 
arts  especially  needlework.  Her  bedroom  became  the  training- 
ground,  where  they  stitched  and  mended  their  clothes,  and 
learned  how  to  darn  neatly  and  knit  their  own  stockings, 
whilst  in  the  kitchen  they  learned  to  cook,  make  bread,  and 
manage  the  ironing  of  the  household  linen.  Miss  Branwell's 
bent  towards  the  practical  side  of  life  was  of  great  advantage 
in  a  home  where  the  daughters  possessed  such  highly  developed 
imaginative  powers.  The  careful  management  of  the  house- 
hold relieved  Mr.  Bronte  from  much  anxiety,  and  he  appreciated 
Miss  Branwell's  desire  "  to  maintain  her  dignity  "  by  paying 
her  own  personal  expenses.  The  old  servants  said  she  took 
most  of  her  meals  in  her  own  bedroom,  which  was  really  a  bed 
sitting-room,  and  Mr.  Bronte  decided  to  have  his  chief  meals 
in  his  study.  The  six  children  were  thus  left  very  frequently 
to  get  their  meals  in  the  kitchen  with  the  servants,  so  that 
the  family  sitting-room  was  left  neat  and  clean  to  receive  the 
clergymen  and  their  wives  when  they  called  at  the  vicarage. 

It  was  at  this  time  that  Patrick  Bronte  tried  the  experiment 
of  testing  his  children's  reasoning  powers  by  setting  them  to 
answer  questions  without  any  previous  preparation.  It  was 
with  pardonable  pride  that  he  wrote  to  Mrs.  Gaskell  an  account 
of  an  examination  he  gave  them,  when  she  was  preparing  the 
biography  of  Charlotte. 


70        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

When  Miss  Branwell  had  been  with  the  family  about  a  year, 
all  the  children  were  very  ill ;  the  two  older  girls — Maria  and 
Elizabeth — had  measles,  followed  by  whooping-cough.  The 
younger  ones  caught  the  infection,  but  in  a  milder  form. 

On  the  30th  of  January,  1824,  a  school  was  opened  at  Cowan 
Bridge,  known  as  The  Clergy  Daughters'  School.  Both  Maria 
and  Elizabeth  Bronte  were  promised  as  pupils,  but  their  illness 
prevented  them  from  attending  when  the  school  was  opened, 
and  their  aunt,  anxious  to  send  them  with  plenty  of  good 
underclothing,  kept  them  at  needlework,  as  the  faithful 
servant,  Nancy  Garrs,  declared,  instead  of  allowing  them  to 
walk  on  the  moors,  and  thus  regain  their  health,  as  the  four 
younger  children  did. 

Mr.  Bronte  was  much  relieved  by  the  opening  of  the  Cowan 
Bridge  School,  for  he  found  it  difficult  to  supervise  the  educa- 
tion of  his  children,  and  keep  pace  with  his  church  duties. 
Miss  Branwell  was  also  beginning  to  feel  the  strain  of 
superintending  this  large  household. 

There  is  not  the  slightest  doubt  that  Mr.  Carus-Wilson,  the 
founder,  was  anxious  that  the  school  should  prove  useful, 
and  supply  a  long-felt  need.  The  prospectus  sent  out  stated 
the  terms  for  education,  board  and  lodging,  and,  as  these  were 
very  low,  several  clergymen  in  different  parts  of  England 
eagerly  availed  themselves  of  the  opportunity  of  securing  a 
good  training  for  their  daughters. 

The  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte  seems  to  have  been  anxious  to 
secure  his  elder  daughter's  admission  to  the  school  at  the 
earliest  possible  time,  and  Maria  and  Elizabeth  were  sent  there 
at  the  beginning  of  the  second  quarter,  in  July,  for  in  those 
days  there  were  four  terms  to  the  school  year.  The  superin- 
tendent of  the  school  hesitated  to  admit  the  two  Brontes,  who 
had  not  sufficiently  recovered  from  their  illness  to  warrant 
their  mixing  with  the  other  scholars  of  the  school.  Instead 
of  being  sent  to  school  they  needed  a  long  holiday,  which  the 
aunt  and  the  father  ought  surely  to  have  known.  It  is  quite 
possible,  however,  that  it  was  thought  a  change  of  air  would 
be  beneficial,  and  that  they  would  be  better  in  the  sheltered 
valley  of  Cowan  Bridge  than  in  the  bleak  and  breezy  Haworth. 


SCHOOLS  ATTENDED  BY  THE  BRONTES       71 

Mr.  Bronte  not  only  took  his  two  girls  himself  by  the  coach 
which  they  joined  at  Keighley,  but  he  slept  and  had  his  food 
at  the  school  for  the  night,  and  no  doubt  left  quite  satisfied 
in  his  mind  with  the  food  and  accommodation. 

The  reputation  of  every  school  associated  with  the  Brontes 
has  been  branded  as  with  hot  irons — Cowan  Bridge,  perhaps, 
faring  the  worst.  Charlotte  Bronte  spoke  of  Miss  Wooler's 
school  at  Dewsbury  as  "  a  poisoned  place  for  me,"  and  Law 
Hill,  where  Emily  was  for  two  and  a  half  years,  as  a  place  of 
slavery — "  hard  work  from  six  in  the  morning  to  eleven  at 
night."  The  pensionnat  at  Brussels  suffered  considerably 
as  being  a  school  where  craft  and  espionage  were  practised 
by  the  head-mistress.  Similarly  the  homes  in  which  the 
Bronte  sisters  were  employed  as  governesses  were  also  be- 
smirched :  Stonegappe,  where  Charlotte  was  engaged  by 
Mrs.  Sidgwick,  was  miserable  :  Upperwood,  Rawdon,  where 
Charlotte  lived  for  some  time,  was  a  prison  ;  Anne's  stay  at 
Blake  Hall  and  the  rectory  of  the  Rev.  Edmund  Robinson 
yielded  nothing  but  thorns.  Bran  well  was  dismissed  from 
Thorpe  Green,  and  in  his  case  the  fault  was  attributed  to  his 
employers. 

Much  sympathy  has  been  expended  on  the  Bronte  children 
on  account  of  the  hard  times  which  they  experienced,  and  yet 
pupils  who  were  at  the  same  schools  at  the  same  time  had  a 
very  different  tale  to  tell.  That  the  schools  of  nearly  a  cen- 
tury ago  differed  from  those  of  to-day  is  certain,  but  they 
were  not  wholly  bad,  though  the  methods  were  frequently 
more  mechanical,  and  the  treatment  of  the  children  less 
sympathetic  than  is  usual  to-day.  Almost  every  child  in 
those  times  could  remember  cases  of  injustice,  and  even 
of  ill-treatment,  especially  when  judged  by  the  standards  of 
a  later  period.  The  day  of  the  child  had  not  arrived,  nor  had 
the  country  awakened  to  the  fact  that  the  child  was  the 
nation's  greatest  asset. 

The  Brontes  were  never  adapted  for  school  life  ;  they  were 
shy,  awkward,  and  reserved,  and  unable  or  unwilling  to  join 
in  the  games.  Their  minds  had  been  fed  on  the  books  in  their 
father's  library,  including  what  Charlotte  called  Mad  Methodist 


72        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Magazines  from  Penzance.  In  this  and  in  other  ways,  they 
were  ill-prepared  to  benefit  by  their  school  life  at  Cowan 
Bridge.  In  addition  they  were  delicate,  with  more  than 
average  brain  power  and  yet  feeble  bodies,  which  left  them 
with  unstrung  nerves  and  a  temperament  such  that  they  were 
seldom  in  a  happy  frame  of  mind.  Their  happiest  moments 
were  when  they  were  rambling  over  the  moors,  away  from  the 
sound  of  human  voices.  There  they  could  be  themselves — 
playing  in  the  brook,  peeping  into  the  hedge-sparrow's  nest, 
swinging  on  the  low  branches  of  the  trees,  or  lying  on  the 
grass  gazing  on  the  sky,  which  they  were  fond  of  doing  by  day, 
and  star-gazing  at  night.  It  is  necessary  that  the  outlook  of 
these  uncommon  children  should  be  considered,  before  blaming 
their  teachers  or  employers. 

Charlotte  Bronte  describes  the  Clergy  Daughters'  School  at 
Cowan  Bridge  in  Jane  Eyre,  under  the  name  of  Lowood.  In 
that  description  there  is  much  that  is  true,  and  there  is  also 
much  that  is  untrue.  The  two  Miss  Brocklehursts,  who  were 
said  to  be  "  dressed  grandly,"  and  who  called  at  the  school  to 
see  the  children  at  Lowood,  are  represented  as  the  daughters 
of  the  superintendent,  Mr.  Brocklehurst.  These  ladies  could 
not  possibly  represent  the  daughters  of  the  Rev.  W.  Carus- 
Wilson,  whose  little  girls  were  at  that  time  in  the  nursery, 
and  yet  everyone  knows  that  "  the  black  marble  clergyman  " 
was  intended  for  Mr.  Carus-Wilson  ;  and  they  take  it  for 
granted  that  the  grandly  dressed  ladies  were  his  daughters. 

The  harm  that  Charlotte  Bronte  did  to  the  school,  by  her 
version  in  Jane  Eyre,  was  extremely  small,  and  whatever 
ill-feeling  may  have  been  roused  had  died  down  by  1857,  when 
Mrs.  Gaskell  published  the  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte.  Her 
account  was  unjust,  and  it  served  no  good  purpose  to  revive 
the  trouble,  for,  while  a  certain  amount  of  licence  is  always 
allowed  to  a  novelist,  it  was  a  different  matter  when  the 
statements  reflecting  on  the  school  were  given  in  the  "  Life," 
which  had  to  deal  with  facts. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  was  certainly  hard  on  the  founder  of  the 
Institution,  Mr.  W.  Carus-Wilson,  and  although  she  knew  that 
Charlotte  Bronte  regretted  having  written  what  she  did, 


MRS.  GASKELL  AND  COWAN  BRIDGE  SCHOOL   73 

when  the  place  had  been  identified,  Mrs.  Gaskell  made  matters 
worse  by  calling  attention  to  a  worthy  institution,  which  had 
been  unfortunate  in  its  management  in  the  early  months  of 
its  existence.  Her  statements  were  not  always  accurate, 
as  may  be  seen,  for  instance,  in  the  dates  she  gives  for  the 
arrival  and  departure  of  the  Bronte  girls  ;  in  fact,  in  checking 
Mrs.  Gaskell's  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  one  cannot  help  feeling 
that  in  some  respects  she  failed  to  exercise  ordinary  care  in 
her  research  work.  Had  she  asked  to  see  the  admission  register 
of  the  school,  she  would  have  saved  Mr.  Bronte  from  some 
abuse  and  seeming  want  of  consideration  for  his  children. 
Though  the  school  was  transferred  to  Casterton,  in  1832, 
owing  to  the  inadequacy  of  the  Cowan  Bridge  premises,  the 
old  register  is  still  in  existence,  and  it  is  there  stated  that 
Maria  Bronte,  aged  ten  years,  and  Elizabeth,  aged  nine  years, 
were  admitted  to  the  school  on  21st  July,  1824.  Maria  left 
in  ill-health  on  14th  February,  1825,  gradually  wasting  away 
until  she  died  on  6th  May,  1825.  Elizabeth  left  on  31st  May, 
1825,  and  died,  owing  to  the  same  cause,  on  15th  June,  1825. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  conveys  the  impression  that  both  died  of 
typhoid  fever  as  the  result  of  the  unhealthiness  of  the  school. 
From  the  dates  previously  mentioned,  it  is  seen  that  Maria 
was  at  home  for  three  months  before  her  death.  As  a  matter 
of  fact,  neither  of  the  Bronte  children  had  fever.  Strange 
to  say,  Mrs.  Gaskell  mentions  that  Maria  died  a  few  days  after 
Mr.  Bronte  brought  her  home  by  the  Leeds  coach.  Elizabeth 
died  nearly  six  weeks  after  her  sister,  though  she  did  not  arrive 
at  home  until  nearly  a  month  after  Maria's  death.  It  is  plain 
to  see  that  Mrs.  Gaskell  fixed  some  of  her  dates  by  Jane  Eyre, 
taking  it  for  granted  that  the  treatment  of  Helen  Burns  was 
literally  true. 

Referring  to  the  harsh  treatment  which  Maria — the  Helen 
Burns  of  Jane  Eyre — received  whilst  at  school  at  the  hands  of 
Miss  Scatcherd,  who  was  early  identified  as  a  Miss  Andrews — 
one  of  the  teachers  of  the  school — Mrs.  Gaskell  says — 

M  I  only  wonder  that  she  (Charlotte)  did  not  remonstrate 
against  her  father's  decision  to  send  her  and  Emily  back  to 
Cowan  Bridge,  after  Maria's  and  Elizabeth's  deaths." 


74        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTfiS 

This  not  only  reflects  on  the  school,  but  also  would  indicate, 
if  accurate,  most  callous  conduct  on  the  part  of  Mr.  Bronte 
and  the  aunt,  Miss  Branwell.  It  was  a  fact  that  a  low  fever 
had  broken  out  at  the  school  in  the  Spring,  when  Maria  and 
Elizabeth  were  first  taken  seriously  ill,  and  though  they  did 
not  take  the  fever,  they  were  so  ill  that  they  had  to  return 
home  ;  but  to  the  honour  of  Mr.  Bronte,  not  only  did  he  not 
send  Charlotte  and  Emily  back  to  Cowan  Bridge  School,  but 
such  was  his  anxiety  at  losing  one  daughter,  and  receiving 
another  almost  in  a  dying  state,  that  he  sent,  or  probably 
went  himself,  for  Charlotte  and  Emily  and  brought  them  home 
the  very  next  day  after  Elizabeth's  return,  keeping  all  his 
children  at  home  for  the  following  six  years,  teaching  them 
scripture  and  secular  subjects  generally,  whilst  Miss  Branwell 
was  responsible  for  their  progress  in  needlework  and  house- 
wifery. It  may  be  suggested  that  Mr.  Bronte  should  have 
protested  against  Mrs.  Gaskell's  reflection  on  his  conduct  in 
connection  with  this  Cowan  Bridge  incident,  but  it  must  be 
remembered  that,  when  The  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte  was  written, 
he  was  an  old  man  of  over  eighty  years  of  age,  and  not  likely 
to  be  much  concerned  to  defend  his  character.  It  is  a  pity 
that  in  subsequent  editions  the  error  has  been  repeated,  for 
many  writers  on  the  Brontes  have  continued  to  make  this 
charge  against  Mr.  Bronte  until  it  has  become  to  be  con- 
sidered the  absolute  truth.  The  old  register  shows  that 
Charlotte,  aged  eight,  entered  the  school  on  10th  August,  1824, 
and  left  on  1st  June,  1825,  and  Emily,  aged  six  and  a  quarter, 
became  a  pupil  on  25th  November,  1824,  and  was  withdrawn 
on  1st  June,  1825,  with  her  sister — neither  of  them  returning 
again  to  Cowan  Bridge. 

There  is  a  report  in  the  admission  register  for  each  of  the 
Bronte  children,  opposite  to  their  names.  This  can  still  be 
seen  by  the  courtesy  of  the  Governor  of  The  Clergy  Daughters' 
School  at  Casterton — 

"Maria  Bronte,  aged  10£  (daughter  of  Patrick  Bronte, 
Haworth,  near  Keighley,  Yorks),  July  21st,  1824 :  Reads  toler- 
ably. Writes  pretty  well.  Ciphers  a  little.  Works  very 
badly.  Knows  a  little  grammar,  geography  and  history.  Has 


SCHOOL  RECORDS  75 

made  some  progress  in  reading  French,  but  knows  nothing  of 
the  language  grammatically.  Left  February  14,  1825,  in 
ill-health,  and  died  May  6,  1825." 

It  is  no  wonder  that  the  child  worked  badly,  by  which  is 
probably  meant  that  her  needlework  was  inferior.  As  her 
mother  died  in  1821,  she  had  been  a  little  drudge  to  her  younger 
sisters.  She  was  the  only  child  of  the  family  that  could 
remember  much  of  Mrs.  Bronte  ;  it  had  fallen  to  her  lot  to 
keep  the  younger  children  quiet  in  the  little  tireless  box-room 
next  to  the  mother's  sick  room.  "  Those  who  knew  her  then 
described  her  as  grave,  thoughtful,  and  quiet,  to  a  degree  far 
beyond  her  years.  Her  childhood  was  no  childhood/' 

The  school  record  of  Elizabeth  Bronte,  of  whom  we  know 
the  least,  reads — 

"  Elizabeth  Bronte,  age  9.  (Vaccinated.  Scarlet  fever. 
Whooping  cough.)  Reads  little.  Writes  pretty  well.  Ciphers 
none.  Works  very  badly.  Knows  nothing  else.  Left  in 
ill-health,  May  31,  1825.  Died  June  15,  1825,  in  decline." 

There  is  little  to  tell  of  Elizabeth,  but  the  teacher,  Miss  Evans — 
the  Miss  Temple  of  Jane  Eyre — wrote  to  Mrs.  Gaskell  saying — 

"The  second,  Elizabeth,  is  the  only  one  of  the  family  of 
whom  I  have  a  vivid  recollection,  from  her  meeting  with  a 
somewhat  alarming  accident,  in  consequence  of  which  I  had 
her  for  some  days  and  nights  in  my  bedroom,  not  only  for  the 
sake  of  greater  quiet,  but  that  I  might  watch  over  her  myself. 
Her  head  was  severely  cut,  but  she  bore  all  the  consequent 
suffering  with  exemplary  patience,  and  by  it  won  much  upon 
my  esteem.  Of  the  two  younger  ones  (if  two  there  were) 
I  have  very  slight  recollections,  save  that  one,  a  darling  child, 
under  five  years  of  age,  was  quite  the  pet  nursling  of  the  school." 

This  last  would  be  Emily ;  Charlotte  was  considered  the 
most  talkative  of  the  sisters — a  "  bright,  clever  little  child." 

Charlotte  Bronte's  report  is  interesting — 

"Entered  school  August  10,  1824.  Writes  indifferently. 
Ciphers  a  little,  and  works  neatly.  Knows  nothing  of  grammar, 
geography,  history,  or  accomplishments.  Altogether  clever 
of  her  age,  but  knows  nothing  systematically.  Left  school 
June  1,  1825.  Governess." 


76        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Emily  BrontS's  report  reads  as  follows — 

"Entered  Nov.  25,  1824,  age  5|.  Reads  very  prettily, 
and  works  a  little.  Left  June  1,  1825.  Subsequent  career, 
governess."  The  age  should  have  been  6J-. 

She  appears  to  have  received  good  reports  in  every  case  from 
her  schools. 

For  each  of  the  four  children  Mr.  Bronte  paid  on  entrance 
£7,  and  £4  for  books  and  clothing,  and  in  1825,  £7  for  three  of 
the  girls,  £3  for  French  and  Drawing  for  Maria,  and  £1  14s.  8d. 
for  extra  clothing,  besides  18s.  7-J-d.  for  "  clothes  for  Miss 
Charlotte,"  and  13s.  for  Emily. 

When  Maria  was  sent  home  ill  she  travelled  under  the  care 
of  Mrs.  Hardacre,  and  in  the  school  account  book  appear 
these  items — 

Elizabeth's  fare  home,  guard  and  coachman  .  13  0 
Mrs.  Hardacre's  fare  .  .  .  .  18  0 
Horse,  gig,  pikes  and  men  .  .  .26 
Mrs.  Hardacre's  bed  at  Keighley  .  ,10 
2  letters 1  4£ 

It  was  the  custom  at  the  Clergy  Daughters'  School  to  ask 
for  the  prospective  career  of  each  girl  when  she  entered  the 
school.  Much  has  been  said  of  the  touching,  but  harrowing 
description  of  the  death  of  Helen  Burns  (Maria  Bronte). 
Mrs.  Gaskell  says — 

"  I  need  hardly  say  that  Helen  Burns  is  as  exact  a  transcript 
of  Maria  Bronte  as  Charlotte's  wonderful  power  of  reproducing 
character  could  give." 

That  could  hardly  be  true,  as  Charlotte  did  not  leave  school 
until  three  weeks  after  Maria's  death,  but  it  is  very  probable 
that  the  description  of  the  death  of  Helen  Burns  is  really 
founded  on  that  of  Elizabeth,  as  Charlotte  was  at  home  during 
the  last  fortnight  of  Elizabeth's  illness.  Only  Anne  and 
Branwell  were  at  home  when  Maria  died,  and  Anne  was  too 
young  to  remember  it,  but  Branwell  never  forgot  it ;  he 
mentions  his  sister's  death  years  afterwards,  and  he  wrote  a 
poem  to  her  memory,  entitled  Caroline. 

The  letter  from  Miss  Evans  to  Mrs.  Gaskell,  just  quoted,  tells 
of  Elizabeth  on  one  occasion  being  cared  for  in  her  bedroom, 


SCHOOL  FEES  77 

and  in  Jane  Eyre  Charlotte  Bronte  relates  a  similar  incident 
concerning  Helen  Burns,  who  is  supposed  to  have  died  at 
school  in  the  arms  of  Jane  Eyre.  In  later  years,  Charlotte 
Bronte  told  her  fellow-pupils  at  Roe  Head  of  the  effect  which 
the  death  of  her  sister  Elizabeth  had  on  her. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  made  too  much  of  the  Cowan  Bridge  School, 
and  the  first  part  of  the  biography  of  Charlotte  Bronte  goes 
far  too  much  into  detail,  as  if  the  writer  was  afraid  that  she 
would  not  have  sufficient  material  for  the  work.  It  is  clear 
that  Mr.  Bronte  intended  that  Charlotte  and  Emily  would 
return  to  school,  for  his  account  was  not  closed  till  Sept.  23, 
when  he  was  allowed  an  abatement  of  nearly  £]  on  Maria's 
and  Elizabeth's  account,  and  £5  2s.  4d.  for  clothing. 

It  is  only  fair  to  the  memory  of  Charlotte  Bronte  to  quote 
what  she  said  to  Mrs.  Gaskell — 

"  Miss  Bronte  more  than  once  said  to  me,  that  she  should 
not  have  written  what  she  did  of  Lowood  in  Jane  Eyre,  if  she 
had  thought  the  place  would  have  been  so  immediately  identi- 
fied with  Cowan  Bridge,  although  there  was  not  a  word  in  her 
account  of  the  institution  but  what  was  true  at  the  time  when 
she  knew  it ;  she  also  said  that  she  had  not  considered  it 
necessary,  in  works  of  fiction,  to  state  every  particular 
with  the  impartiality  that  might  be  required  in  a  court  of 
justice,  nor  to  seek  out  motives,  and  make  allowances  for  human 
feelings,  as  she  might  have  done,  if  dispassionately  analys- 
ing the  conduct  of  those  who  had  the  superintendence  of  the 
institution.  I  believe  she  herself  would  have  been  glad  of 
an  opportunity  to  correct  the  over-strong  impression  which  was 
made  upon  the  public  mind  by  her  vivid  picture,  though  even 
she,  suffering  her  whole  life  long,  both  in  heart  and  body, 
from  the  consequences  of  what  happened  there,  might  have 
been  apt,  to  the  last,  to  take  her  deep  belief  in  facts  for  the 
facts  themselves — her  conception  of  truth  for  the  absolute 
truth." 

If  it  be  granted  that  Charlotte  Bronte  considered  her  own 
case  as  bad  as  it  was  represented  in  Jane  Eyre,  it  must  be 
remembered  that  the  hardship  from  the  cold  weather  could 
only  refer  to  the  winter  months.  She  went  to  the  school 


78        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

on  10th  August,  and  generally  the  autumn  in  that  part  of 
Yorkshire  is  the  best  time  of  the  year. 

The  founder  of  the  school — the  Rev.  W.  Carus- Wilson — had 
charge  of  two  churches,  with  two  residences,  one  at  Casterton 
Hall,  near  Tunstall,  and  one  at  Silverdale,  a  few  miles  away. 
Though  not  really  a  wealthy  man,  he  had  ample  means,  and 
was  generous  to  the  school,  which  only  started  with  sixteen 
pupils,  though  Mrs.  Gaskell  gives  nearly  a  hundred  as  the 
number.  As  a  fact,  until  the  time  when  Charlotte  Bronte 
left  in  June,  1825,  only  fifty-three  girls  had  been  admitted, 
and  the  fees  would,  consequently,  not  by  any  means  cover  the 
expenses,  so  that  it  was  necessary  to  ask  for  subscriptions 
towards  the  cost  of  maintaining  the  school. 

At  "  The  Cove  " — Mr.  W.  Carus- Wilson's  sea-side  home  at 
Silverdale — the  children  from  the  Clergy  Daughters'  School 
sometimes  passed  their  holidays,  and  whilst  pupils  at  Cowan 
Bridge,  Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte  were  sent  to  this  beautiful 
old  house  on  the  shores  of  Morecambe  Bay.  In  the  house  is 
a  room,  known  as  "  The  Bronte  room,"  which  is  kept  just  as 
it  was  when  Charlotte  Bronte  occupied  it  as  a  bedroom.  One 
of  the  two  windows  overlooks  a  fine  lawn.  A  relative  of 
Mr.  W.  Carus-Wilson  informed  the  writer  that  Charlotte  and 
Emily  Bronte  were  sent  there  on  31st  May,  1825,  the  day  when 
their  sister,  Elizabeth  Bronte,  left  Cowan  Bridge  School,  owing 
to  her  serious  illness.  It  was  said  that  the  Rev.  Patrick 
Bronte  was  so  alarmed  when  his  daughter  arrived  at  the 
Haworth  Vicarage,  that  he  set  off  post  haste  and  brought  the 
other  two  daughters  from  "  The  Cove  "  to  Haworth.  This 
would  account  for  the  statement  that  Charlotte  never  saw 
the  sea  until  years  later,  although  the  waves,  at  high  tide, 
washed  against  the  walls  of  the  garden  at  "  The  Cove,"  but  the 
windows  in  the  Bronte  bedroom  look  in  an  opposite  direction. 
Charlotte  saw  the  sea  for  the  first  time  at  Bridlington,  when 
she  visited  that  sea-side  resort  in  company  with  Ellen  Nussey. 

Not  more  than  ten  minutes  walk  from  this  house  is  the 
Lindeth  Tower — now  known  as  the  Gibraltar  Tower — where, 
thirty-one  years  later,  Mrs.  Gaskell  wrote  the  "  Life  "  of  this 
quiet  little  girl,  who  spent  just  one  night  in  Silverdale. 


REV.    W.   CARUS-WILSON  79 

Charlotte  Bronte  retained  for  nearly  twenty  years  a  lively 
recollection  of  her  first  journey  from  Ha  worth,  when  she  was 
but  eight  years  old.  It  would  be  necessary  to  rise  early  to 
catch  the  Leeds  and  Kendal  coach  as  it  passed  through 
Keighley.  It  is  very  probable  that  her  father  accompanied 
her  as  far  as  Keighley,  and  her  two  sisters,  Maria  and  Elizabeth, 
would  be  ready  to  receive  her  at  the  Cowan  Bridge  School. 

From  Keighley  the  coach  would  go  by  Skipton  and  Eshton 
Hall  where  Miss  Currer  lived.  She  was  noted  for  her  great 
collection  of  books,  probably  the  envy  of  Charlotte  Bronte  who, 
when  anxious  to  find  a  nom  de  guerre  to  hide  her  identity, 
chose  Currer  as  her  first  name.  From  Eshton  Hall,  the  coach 
would  proceed  through  Giggleswick  to  Ingleton,  at  the  foot 
of  Ingleborough.  To  the  little  traveller,  having  seen  little 
beyond  Haworth,  some  of  these  places  through  which  the 
coach  passed  would  appear  almost  like  important  towns. 

In  1857,  when  the  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte  was  issued,  there 
were  many  letters  in  the  press  concerning  the  treatment  of 
the  little  Brontes  whilst  staying  at  the  Cowan  Bridge  School. 
That  Mr.  Cams- Wilson  made  several  mistakes  in  the  early 
days  is  not  to  be  wondered  at,  and  that  he  was  very  strict  and 
narrow  concerning  religious  matters  was  only  in  keeping  with 
the  times.  Some  of  those  subjects,  such  as  "  hell  fire,"  "  sin  " 
and  "  future  punishments,"  were  the  common  theological 
questions  of  the  day,  and  the  Brontes  only  fared  as  many 
children  did  in  the  majority  of  the  Sunday  Schools  of  the  land. 

The  school  still  keeps  the  founder's  day  on  the  anniversary 
of  the  birthday  of  Mr.  Carus-Wilson,  7th  July.  A  white 
marble  tablet  is  placed  in  the  church  to  his  memory,  and  his 
grave  in  the  churchyard  is  seldom  without  flowers.  Admirers 
of  the  Brontes  often  visit  Casterton,  expecting  to  find  it  the 
original  of  Lowood,  which  is  four  miles  away.  Charlotte 
Bronte  knew  that  Casterton  succeeded  Cowan  Bridge,  and  she 
speaks  highly  of  it  in  Jane  Eyre. 

Had  the  Brontes  been  strong  and  well  when  they  went  to 
Cowan  Bridge  they  would  not  have  fared  so  badly.  Many 
of  the  old  pupils,  even  some  who  were  at  the  school 
with  the  Brontes,  showed  their  appreciation  by  becoming 


80        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

subscribers  to  the  school.  More  than  once  Charlotte  Bronte 
accused  herself  of  exaggeration  and  of  scorning  those  who 
were  better  than  herself. 

Of  Tunstall  church,  which  is  described  in  Jane  Eyre  as 
Brocklebridge,  Charlotte  Bronte  says — 

"Sundays  were  dreary  days  in  that  wintry  season.  We 
had  to  walk  two  miles  to  Brocklebridge  Church,  where  our 
patron  officiated.  We  set  out  cold,  we  arrived  at  church 
colder  :  during  the  morning  service  we  became  almost  paralysed. 
It  was  too  far  to  return  to  dinner,  and  an  allowance  of  cold 
meat  and  bread,  in  the  same  penurious  proportion  observed 
in  our  ordinary  meals,  was  served  round  between  the  services. 
At  the  close  of  the  afternoon  service  we  returned  by  an  exposed 
and  hilly  road,  where  the  bitter  winter  wind,  blowing  over  a 
range  of  snowy  summits  to  the  north,  almost  flayed  the  skin 
from  our  faces." 

This  church  at  Tunstall  was  only  used  by  the  pupils  of  Cowan 
Bridge  School  for  the  first  year  of  the  school's  existence.  A 
few  months  after  the  opening  of  the  school  a  meeting  of  the 
trustees  of  the  Leek  chapel,  a  chapel  of  ease,  was  held,  and  it 
was  decided  to  enlarge  it  to  accommodate  the  pupils.  This 
place  of  worship  was  within  half  a  mile  of  the  school,  and  when 
the  alterations  were  completed  the  pupils  were  taken  there 
on  Sundays.  It  was  unfortunate  that  the  Bronte  children 
were  at  Cowan  Bridge  during  the  only  winter  when  it  was 
necessary  for  the  pupils  to  attend  the  Sunday  services  at  the 
Tunstall  church. 

The  walk  to  this  church  was  through  a  beautiful  country 
district,  and,  in  fine  weather,  the  journey  must  have  been 
very  pleasant.  Other  pupils  who  were  at  school  with  the 
Brontes  said  that  they  do  not  remember  a  single  case  of  scholars 
having  their  feet  wet  through  the  walk,  as  the  pupils  wore 
clogs,  which  kept  their  feet  much  drier  than  boots  or  shoes 
would  have  done. 

It  is  difficult  to  understand  how  the  pupils  could  be  cold 
when  they  started  and  colder  still  when  they  arrived  at  church. 
This  could  hardly  be  literally  true,  as  the  very  exercise  of 
walking  would  tend  to  raise  the  temperature  of  the  body, 


TUNSTALL  CHURCH  81 

especially  as  Miss  Temple,  the  teacher  in  charge,  is  represented 
as  walking  lightly  and  rapidly,  as  Charlotte  Bronte  says, 
"encouraging  us,  by  precept  and  example,  to  keep  up  our 
spirits,  and  march  forward,  as  she  said, '  like  stalwart  soldiers/  ' 
Charlotte  Bronte  was  a  novelist,  and  had  to  make  her  heroine 
suffer,  but  she  also  made  the  greatly  respected  family  of  Mr. 
Carus- Wilson  suffer,  and  his  descendants  resent  it  to-day. 

According  to  the  old  registers,  the  girls  in  winter  wore  thick 
purple  dresses  and  short  capes,  whilst  on  cold  or  wet  days  they 
had  green  plaid  cloaks  and  pattens.  The  hair  was  cropped, 
and  night  caps  were  worn,  but  pocket  handkerchiefs  do  not 
appear  in  the  list  of  clothing.  On  week  days  brown  holland 
pinafores  were  worn  and  white  ones  on  Sundays.  In  summer, 
the  girls  had  green  and  white  straw  bonnets  trimmed  with 
green  calico,  buff  dresses  of  nankeen,  with  short  sleeves  and 
high  necks,  white  cotton  stockings  and  strong  shoes. 

White  bonnets  were  worn  on  Sundays,  trimmed  with  purple, 
and  white  dresses  with  low  necks  and  short  sleeves,  and  for 
church  white  cotton  gloves  were  supplied.1 

Many  pilgrims  visit  Tunstall  church  because  of  its  associa- 
tion with  the  Brontes  and  the  Bronte  literature.  The  little 
chamber  over  the  porch,  where  the  scholars  ate  their  lunch 
between  morning  and  afternoon  service,  is  usually  pointed  out. 
As  the  galleries  have  been  demolished,  it  is  not  possible  for 
visitors  to  enter  the  room. 

The  letter  from  one  of  the  teachers  at  Cowan  Bridge  School 
probably  sums  up  the  question  fairly — 

"  I  have  not  the  least  hesitation  in  saying  that,  upon  the 
whole,  the  comforts  were  as  many,  and  the  privations  as  few  at 
Cowan  Bridge  as  can  well  be  found  in  so  large  an  establishment. 
How  far  young,  or  delicate  children  are  able  to  contend  with 
the  necessary  evils  of  a  public  school  is,  in  my  opinion,  a  very 
grave  question,  and  does  not  enter  into  the  present  discussion." 

Some  bitter  correspondence  passed  in  the  Halifax  papers 
after  the  publication  of  Mrs.  GaskelFs  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte, 
in  which  the  Rev.  A.  B.  Nicholls  defended  his  late  wife, 
Charlotte  Bronte. 

JH 

1  Notes  on  the  Clergy  Daughters'  School  by  M.  Williams. 

6 — (2200) 


CHAPTER  VII 

HAWORTH 

1825-1831 

THE  Bronte  children  return  to  Haworth — Their  home  life  and  educa- 
tion— Tabitha  Aykroyd — Early  compositions  by  the  Bront€s — 
Sale  of  autograph  manuscripts — Dramatisation  of  stories. 

THE  middle  of  June  found  the  family  at  the  parsonage  re- 
united, though  two,  Maria  and  Elizabeth,  had  passed  through 
"  the  little  gate  of  death  "  at  the  end  of  the  garden,  and  found 
an  early  grave  by  the  side  of  their  mother  in  the  vault  in  the 
old  church. 

Charlotte  was  now  called  upon  to  take  the  role  of  her  elder 
sister,  and  though  only  nine  years  of  age,  some  responsibility 
in  the  home  rested  upon  her  little  shoulders.  Another  servant 
had  to  be  engaged,  and  Mr.  Bronte  and  Miss  Branwell  deter- 
mined to  undertake  the  education  of  the  children.  Anne 
was  now  five  years  old,  Emily  seven,  and  Branwell  eight. 
The  four  children  went  each  morning  to  their  father's  little 
study  on  the  ground  floor,  where  they  received  lessons  in 
scripture,  the  three  R's,  a  little  history,  and,  strange  to  say, 
politics — the  vicar  using  his  old  school  books.  In  some  of 
the  exercise  books,  remembering  his  schoolmaster  days,  Mr. 
Bronte  wrote  :  "  Everything  that  is  written  in  this  book  must 
be  clear  and  legible." 

Of  these  six  years  there  is  little  that  is  recorded,  but  it  was 
the  period  when  the  children  formed  their  ideas,  which  bore 
fruit  in  later  times.  Even  at  this  early  stage,  they  were 
accustomed  to  keep  household  records,  stating  where  each 
member  of  the  family  was,  and  what  each  was  doing.  In 
the  summer  months  they  wandered  over  the  moors — their 
one  place  of  recreation. 

Charlotte  had  not  forgotten  these  uneventful  days  when  she 
wrote  Jane  Eyre,  for  in  Chapter  X  she  says — 

"  Hitherto  I  have  recorded  in  detail  the  events  of  my 
insignificant  existence  :  to  the  first  ten  years  of  my  life,  I  have 

82 


TABITHA  AYKROYD  83 

given  almost  as  many  chapters.  But  this  is  not  to  be  a  regular 
autobiography  :  I  am  only  bound  to  invoke  memory  where  I 
know  her  responses  will  possess  some  degree  of  interest ; 
therefore  I  now  pass  a  space  of  eight  years  almost  in  silence  : 
a  few  lines  only^are  necessary  to  keep  up  the  links  of  connection." 

The  last  paragraph  points  to  the  fact  that  Miss  Bran  well, 
and  not  Mrs.  Sidgwick,  was  the  original  of  Mrs.  Reed,  for 
Charlotte  Bronte  did  not  meet  Mrs.  Sidgwick  until  1839,  and 
the  reference  to  "  responses  that  possess  some  degree  of 
interest  "  is  most  probably  the  result  of  Mr.  Williams'  letter 
sent  when  The  Professor  was  refused  because  it  was  not  suffici- 
ently interesting.  The  great  event  of  this  year  of  1825  in  the 
Bronte  household,  after  the  sad  death  of  the  older  girls,  was 
the  installation  of  Tabitha  Aykroyd  as  the  chief  servant. 
She  was  a  native  of  Haworth — a  woman  of  fifty-three — and 
five  years  older  than  Mr.  Bronte.  Miss  Branwell,  who  was 
far  from  strong,  and  had  to  keep  to  her  room  upstairs,  needed 
a  good  housekeeper.  Thus  it  became  necessary  to  have  a 
capable  woman  in  the  kitchen,  and  "  Old  Tabby,"  as  she  came 
to  be  called,  ruled  not  only  the  kitchen  but  the  whole  house- 
hold. She  had  a  will  of  her  own,  and  she  afforded  the  girls 
a  new  field  of  observation.  She  was,  undoubtedly,  the  original 
of  "  Hannah,"  the  old  servant  in  Jane  Eyre,  and  she  also 
appears  in  Wuthering  Heights.  The  children  became  greatly 
attached  to  her. 

Tabitha  Aykroyd  was  a  characteristic  Yorkshire  woman, 
faithful  and  true,  but  brusque  to  a  fault,  she  ruled  the  household 
well.  She  had  many  tales  to  tell  of  the  bairns,  who  sometimes 
nearly  frightened  her  out  of  her  wits  with  their  outlandish 
games  and  strange  little  plays.  She  stayed  with  the  Bronte" 
family  for  over  thirty  years,  with  one  short  break,  dying  only 
a  few  weeks  before  Charlotte  Bronte  at  the  age  of  eighty-four, 
though  Mrs.  Gaskell  in  one  of  her  unpublished  letters  gives 
her  age  as  ninety-four.  Much  to  the  regret  of  the  family, 
she  did  not  end  her  days  at  the  old  parsonage,  but,  on  account 
of  the  anxiety  caused  by  Charlotte  Bronte's  illness,  both  Mr. 
Bronte  and  Mr.  Nicholls  thought  it  best  to  remove  her  to  her 
friend's  house  in  Sun  Street,  Haworth,  at  the  lower  end  of  the 


84         IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

village,  where  she  died.  She  is  buried  in  the  churchyard, 
just  beyond  the  wall  of  the  parsonage  garden  ;  the  housemaid, 
Martha  Brown,  succeeded  her,  and  lived  at  the  vicarage  until 
the  vicar's  death.  Tabby  was  the  confidante  of  the  girls, 
who  were  often  to  be  found  in  her  kitchen,  helping  with  the 
baking  and  ironing,  or  inducing  her  to  tell  them  the  fairy  tales 
of  the  glens,  and  the  ghost  stories  connected  with  the  desolate 
houses  on  the  moors  between  Yorkshire  and  Lancashire. 

Tabby  seemed  to  have  read  Richardson's  Pamela,  which 
foreshadowed  Jane  Eyre,  though  Jane  depended  on  her 
intellect  more  than  her  beauty  in  attracting  her  master. 

Emily  Bronte  did  well  to  make  Nelly  Dean  the  narrator  of 
Withering  Heights.  She  had  often  sat  listening  to  Tabby  in 
the  parsonage  kitchen,  for  the  old  servant  was  a  good  tale-teller, 
speaking  always  in  the  broad  Yorkshire  dialect,  which  both 
Charlotte  and  Emily  have  used  when  writing  of  her  in  their 
novels. 

It  was  well  that  Cowan  Bridge  did  not  prove  congenial,  for 
their  education  at  home  was  much  more  suited  to  their  delicate 
constitutions.  The  regular  daily  routine  was  family  prayers, 
breakfast,  lessons  in  the  father's  study,  early  dinner,  walk 
on  the  moors,  Tabby  going  with  them,  and  often  carrying 
little  Anne  over  the  rough  places  ;  then  back  to  tea  in  the 
spotless  kitchen,  followed  by  sewing  for  the  older  girls  in  the 
aunt's  room — the  father  or  aunt  often  reading  the  newspaper 
to  them  or  discussing  books  or  politics.  It  is  not  surprising 
that  in  later  days  they  could  write  books  which  startled  the 
reading  world.  Charlotte,  the  chronicler  of  the  household, 
says — 

"  We  take  two,  and  see  three  newspapers  a  week.  We  take 
the  Leeds  Intelligencer,  Tory,  and  the  Leeds  Mercury,  Whig, 
edited  by  Mr.  Baines,  and  his  brother,  son-in-law,  and  his  two 
sons,  Edward  and  Talbot.  We  see  the  John  Bull ;  it  is  a 
high  Tory,  very  violent.  Mr.  Driver  lends  us  it,  as  likewise 
Blackwood's  Magazine,  the  most  able  periodical  there  is.  The 
Editor  is  Mr.  Christopher  North,  an  old  man  seventy-four 
years  of  age  ;  the  1st  of  April  is  his  birthday  ;  his  company 
are  Timothy  Tickler,  Morgan  O'Doherty,  Macrabin  Mordecai, 


SALE  OF  BRONTE  MANUSCRIPTS  85 

Mullion,  Warnell,  and  James  Hogg,  a  man  of  most  extraordinary 
genius,  a  Scottish  shepherd." 

It  was  at  this  time  that  the  children  began  to  commit  their 
ideas  to  writing,  and  many  of  their  little  manuscripts,  written 
at  this  time,  are  extant.  Charlotte  wrote  the  most,  and  Bran- 
well  came  next,  so  far  as  can  be  judged.  Either  the  younger 
sisters  wrote  much  less  than  Charlotte,  or  they  destroyed  their 
early  manuscripts,  for  there  is  nothing  written  by  Emily  or 
Anne  at  this  time  that  has  been  brought  to  light. 

On  31st  May,  1912,  in  London,  six  autograph  fragments 
of  these  children's  early  work  were  sold  in  separate  lots.  The 
bidding  was  remarkably  keen  for  each  item,  and  the  sale 
realised  £76.  One  was  a  small  page  of  Emily's  poetry,  beginning, 
"  May  flowers  are  opening,"  and  consisting  of  eight  four-lined 
verses,  written  on  a  slip  of  thin  paper,  in  her  sloping,  printed 
characters,  and  measuring  3f  inches  by  2J-  inches.  It  was 
signed  E.  J.  Bronte,  and  was  dated  25th  Jan.,  1839.  This 
manuscript  was  sold  for  £14  5s.  Another  was  a  short,  un- 
published poem  by  Charlotte  Bronte,  signed  and  dated  llth 
Dec.,  1831,  and  beginning,  "  The  trumpet  has  sounded,  its 
voice  is  gone  forth."  It  covered  two  and  a  half  small  pages 
of  thin  paper,  3£  inches  by  2f  inches,  in  writing  which  was 
quite  microscopic  in  size.  This  poem  is  not  included  in  any 
list  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  works,  and  it  realised  £24  10s.  There 
was  also  an  undated  autograph  manuscript  of  two  pages, 
3J  inches  by  2£  inches,  consisting  of  about  seventy  lines,, 
evidently  being  a  fragment  of  a  story  by  Charlotte  Bronte. 
It  told  of  a  traveller  going  to  an  inn  and  staying  for  the  night, 
much  in  the  style  of  Lock  wood  going  to  stay  at  The  Grange 
in  Wuthering  Heights.  This  was  sold  for  £6  15s. 

A  further  autograph  manuscript  by  Charlotte  Bronte, 
signed  and  dated  llth  Feb.,  1830,  though  the  printed  catalogue 
referred  to  the  date  as  1820,  the  figure  three  not  being  very 
distinct,  realised  £5  5s. 

A  curious  feature  of  the  sale  was  the  high  price  obtained 
for  the  two  manuscripts  written  by  Branwell  Bronte,  who  has 
been  discarded,  and  considered  unfit  to  be  associated  with 
his  sisters,  either  as  an  author  or  a  brother.  There  was, 


86        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONT&S 

however,  quite  as  keen  competition  for  his  manuscripts  as  for 
the  others.  The  first  offered  for  sale  was  The  Rising  of  the 
Angrians,  covering  twenty  pages,  6£  inches  by  3£  inches,  with 
about  twenty  lines  to  the  page,  and  signed  and  dated  7th  Jan., 
1836.  It  was  written  in  printed  characters,  which  very  much 
resembled  Emily's  hand-printing,  and  was  sold  for  £13. 

The  second  manuscript  by  Branwell  was  entitled  The  Liar 
Detected.  The  word  "  unmasked "  had  been  altered  to 
"  detected  "  in  the  manuscript.  It  consisted  of  twelve  pages, 
in  the  form  of  a  very  little  book — 2£  inches  by  2  inches,  with 
about  twenty-eight  lines  to  a  page.  It  was  signed  at  the  end 
"  Captain  J.  Bud,"  and,  with  Bran  well's  love  of  conceit,  two 
other  books  by  Captain  Bud  were  mentioned — one,  a  work  in 
three  volumes,  priced  at  £3  3s.,  and  the  other  in  ten  volumes 
at  £10  10s.  One  was  referred  to  as  A  History  on  Political 
Economy. 

This  hand-made  book  was  most  interesting,  as  it  showed  that 
Branwell  was  one  of  the  little  band  of  authors  in  the  remote 
parsonage  in  the  early  days.  The  tiny  pages  were  stitched 
together — probably  by  Charlotte — and  a  cover  was  made 
from  the  back  of  an  old  copy  book.  On  the  cover  was  a  pencil 
drawing  of  an  old  man,  most  likely  the  work  of  Branwell. 
Some  coarse,  purple  sugar  paper,  used  in  those  days,  was 
pasted  to  the  cover  to  make  it  firmer,  and  the  leaves  and  cover 
were  stitched  together  with  grey  worsted,  commonly  used  at 
that  time  for  knitting  stockings.  This  small  book  realised  at 
the  sale  £12  15s.  That  these  two  small  efforts  from  Bran  well's 
pen  should  be  worth  £25  15s.,  considering  that  he  never 
succeeded  in  getting  anything  published  during  his  lifetime,  is 
no  doubt  due  to  the  fame  of  his  sisters,  and  yet,  as  these  two 
stories  show,  he  had  ability  which  would  have  been  recognised 
earlier,  if  he  had  persevered,  and  refrained  from  strong  drink. 

When  it  is  remembered  that  the  book  of  poems  by  Charlotte, 
Emily  and  Anne  Bronte,  published  in  1846  at  their  own  expense 
(nearly  £50)  was  a  complete  failure,  only  two  copies  being 
sold,  it  is  remarkable  that  such  high  prices  should  be  given 
for  these  small  items.  The  fame  of  the  three  sisters  has 
increased,  step  by  step,  since  the  publication  of  Jane  Eyre 


DRAMATISATION   OF  STORIES  87 

Emily  has  waited  long  for  her  due  recognition,  but  now  her 
manuscripts  have  a  greater  marketable  value  than  those  of 
Charlotte;  Bran  well  is  more  appreciated  than  formerly,  and 
possibly  in  the  future  Anne  will  gain  in  public  recognition, 
though  her  work  is  of  an  entirely  different  style,  and  lacks  the 
fire  of  her  famous  sisters. 

It  was  in  1826  that  Charlotte  got  possession  of  her  mother's 
copy  of  The  Imitation  of  Christ,  and  this  she  read  regularly, 
trying  to  frame  her  conduct  upon  its  teaching.  The  children 
learned  to  read  and  write  almost  as  easily  as  they  learned  to 
talk,  and  their  books  took  the  place  very  largely  of  young 
friends. 

It  was  related  in  Haworth  that  one  of  the  trustees  of  the 
church  invited  the  whole  group  from  the  parsonage  to  a  birthday 
party,  in  the  days  following  the  school  life  at  Cowan  Bridge. 
Much  to  the  surprise  of  their  little  friends,  the  Bronte  children 
had  no  idea  of  the  ordinary  games  that  any  village  child  could 
play,  such  as  "  hunt  the  slipper  "  and  "  here  we  go  round  the 
gooseberry  bush."  Their  shyness  was  painful  to  behold ; 
they  were  awkward  and  silent  the  whole  evening,  and  evidently 
greatly  relieved  when  it  was  time  to  return  home.  If  they 
had  been  more  accustomed  to  associating  with  other  children, 
they  could  have  surprised  their  friends  by  acting  one  of  their 
own  original  plays,  requiring  much  more  brain  power  than  the 
repetition  of  the  usual  children's  games.  In  their  own  home 
this  was  quite  a  common  mode  of  enjoyment,  in  which  the 
servants  sometimes  joined.  On  one  occasion,  on  the  29th  May, 
they  determined  to  act  Prince  Charles  and  his  escape  into 
the  oak  tree.  As  there  was  no  oak  tree  in  the  garden,  they 
decided  that  Emily,  dressed  up  to  represent  the  prince,  should 
get  through  the  bedroom  window,  and  hide  in  the  cherry  tree. 
This  she  did  not  accomplish  without  breaking  off  one  of  the 
branches,  which  caused  them  much  distress,  as  the  tree  was 
highly  prized  by  their  father.  To  prevent  the  discovery  of 
the  damage  to  the  tree,  one  of  the  servants  blacked  the  broken 
end  with  soot,  but  Mr.  Bronte'  found  this  out,  though  he  was 
unable  to  discover  the  real  culprit. 

Much   is    published    nowadays   about  dramatisation  as  a 


88        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

means  of  education  in  schools,  but  the  Bronte  children  must 
have  been  pioneers  of  this  method  nearly  a  century  ago. 
From  early  childhood  Charlotte  Bronte  showed  a  gift  for 
acting,  and  she  could  write  plays  with  much  vigour.  In 
Villette  she  says — 

"  A  keen  relish  for  dramatic  expression  had  revealed  itself 
as  part  of  my  nature  ;  to  cherish  and  exercise  this  new-found 
faculty  might  gift  me  with  a  world  of  delight,  but  it  would  not 
do  for  a  mere  looker-on  at  life  :  the  strength  and  longing  must 
be  put  by ;  and  I  put  them  by,  and  fastened  them  in  with 
the  lock  of  resolution  which  neither  Time  nor  Temptation 
has  since  picked." 

How  these  children  found  time  to  get  all  the  writing  done 
is  marvellous.  One  of  the  old  servants  said  that  they  always 
had  a  pencil  in  their  pocket,  and  were  accustomed  to  go  into 
corners  of  the  room  to  put  down  their  thoughts,  sometimes 
on  odd  pieces  of  cardboard,  or  on  any  stray  bit  of  paper.  To 
read  their  little  stories  almost  leads  one  to  conclude  that  they 
were  written  as  composition  exercises  for  their  father,  who, 
himself,  had  always  striven  to  be  known  as  an  author,  and  he, 
doubtless,  encouraged  them  in  their  literary  efforts. 

The  amount  of  writing  accomplished  by  Charlotte  between 
1825  and  1830  is  amazing ;  Mrs.  Gaskell  estimates  it  as  twenty- 
two  volumes,  quoting  Charlotte,  who  was  only  fourteen  years 
old  at  the  time,  as  her  authority.  This  catalogue  of  books 
completed  3rd  August,  1830,  includes  :  Two  Romantic  Tales 
in  one  volume  :  Leisure  Hours  :  The  Adventures  of  Ernest 
Alembert :  An  interesting  Incident  in  the  Lives  of  some  of  the 
most  Eminent  Persons  of  the  Age  :  Tales  of  the  Islanders,  in 
four  volumes  :  Characters  of  Great  Men  of  the  Present  Age  : 
The  Young  Men's  Magazine,  in  six  numbers  :  The  Poetaster, 
a  drama  in  two  volumes :  A  Book  of  Rhymes :  and 
Miscellaneous  Poems. 

The  Rev.  A.  B.  Nicholls  has  proved  that  Mrs.  Gaskell 
greatly  underestimated  the  amount.  Altogether  about  100 
small  manuscripts  were  written  by  these  children  at  this  time, 
and  at  intervals  they  find  their  way  to  the  London  auction 
rooms,  and  are  eagerly  bought  up  by  well-known  autograph 


THE  CHILDREN  OF  THE  PARSONAGE     89 

dealers.    During    the    month    of    June,    1913,    three    tiny 
manuscripts  were  sold. 

In  addition  to  writing,  the  Bronte  children  practised  drawing, 
Charlotte  and  Bran  well  hoping  to  become  artists.  With 
writing,  drawing  and  the  acting  of  their  little  plays,  these 
children  were  far  from  unhappy.  Mrs.  Gaskell,  quoting  from  a 
letter  by  Miss  Evans,  which  referred  to  Charlotte  as  "  a  bright, 
clever  little  girl,"  said  that  this  was  the  last  time  she  could 
use  the  word  bright  with  regard  to  Charlotte,  but  in  this  she 
was  quite  mistaken.  The  children  of  the  parsonage  did  not 
pursue  the  common  path  in  their  search  for  happiness,  but  this 
does  not  prove  that  their  young  lives  were  devoid  of  pleasure. 
Charlotte  gives  us  an  account  of  one  play,  The  Islanders. 

"  June  the  31st,  1829. 

"  The  play  of  +he  Islanders  was  formed  in  December,  1827, 
in  the  following  manner.  One  night,  about  the  time  when  the 
cold  sleet  and  stormy  fogs  of  November  are  succeeded  by 
snow-storms,  and  high  piercing  night-winds  of  confirmed 
winter,  we  were  all  sitting  round  the  warm  blazing  kitchen 
fire,  having  just  concluded  a  quarrel  with  Tabby  concerning 
the  propriety  of  lighting  a  candle,  from  which  she  came  off 
victorious,  no  candle  having  been  produced.  A  long  pause 
succeeded,  which  was  at  last  broken  by  Bran  well  saying, 
in  a  lazy  manner,  4 1  don't  know  what  to  do.'  This  was 
echoed  by  Emily  and  Anne. 

"  Tabby.     '  Wha  ya  may  go  t'bed.' 
"  Br unwell.     '  I'd  rather  do  anything  than  that.' 
"  Charlotte.     '  Why  are  you  so  glum  to-night,  Tabby  ?    Oh  ! 
suppose  we  had  each  an  island  of  our  own.' 

"  Branwell.     '  If  we  had  I  would  choose  the  Island  of  Man.' 
"  Charlotte.     '  And  I  would  choose  the  Isle  of  Wight.' 
"  Emily.     { The  Isle  of  Arran  for  me.' 
"  Anne.     '  And  mine  should  be  Guernsey.' 
"We  then  chose  who  should  be  chief  men  in  our  islands. 
Branwell  chose  John  Bull,  Astley  Cooper,  and  Leigh  Hunt ; 
Emily,  Walter  Scott,  Mr.  Lockhart,  Johnny  Lockhart ;  Anne, 
Michael  Sadler,  Lord  Bentinck,  Sir  Henry  Halford.     I  chose  the 


90        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONT&S 

Duke  of  Wellington  and  two  sons,  Christopher  North  and  Co., 
and  Mr.  Abernethy.  Here  our  conversation  was  interrupted 
by  the,  to  us,  dismal  sound  of  the  clock  striking  seven,  and  we 
were  summoned  off  to  bed.  The  next  day  we  added  many 
others  to  our  list  of  men,  till  we  got  almost  all  the  chief  men  of 
the  kingdom.  After  this,  for  a  long  time,  nothing  worth 
noticing  occurred.  In  June,  1828,  we  erected  a  school  on  a 
fictitious  island,  which  was  to  contain  1,000  children.  The 
manner  of  the  building  was  as  follows.  The  Island  was  fifty 
miles  in  circumference,  and  certainly  appeared  more  like  the 
work  of  enchantment  than  anything  real,"  etc. 

Charlotte  was  twelve  and  Anne  eight,  yet  they  all  had 
to  go  to  bed  at  seven  o'clock,  not  to  sleep  is  fairly  certain  ; 
they  would  use  their  imaginative  powers  to  people  their 
island. 

Shortly  after  this,  Charlotte  Bronte  gives  an  account  of  the 
year  1829,  including  in  her  statement  the  newspapers  and 
magazines  either  purchased  or  lent  to  Mr.  Bronte,  and  the  plays 
written  by  his  children. 

Patrick  Bronte  had  small  opportunity  of  being  an  indulgent 
parent ;  he  had  little  money  to  spare  for  toys,  but  the  old 
interest  in  warfare  and  his  love  for  his  children  prompted  him 
to  buy  a  box  of  soldiers  from  Leeds,  which  in  those  days  were 
more  costly  than  to-day.  To  ordinary  children,  these  would 
have  stood  for  soldiers  and  nothing  more,  but  to  the  imagina- 
tive Brontes  they  represented  a  world  of  history,  and  provided 
thought  and  employment  for  months.  Charlotte  and  Bran  well 
often  took  opposite  views  of  history,  and  it  is  not  surprising 
that  one  should  take  Wellington  and  the  other  Buonaparte  as 
his  or  her  favourite  soldier.  In  those  early  days  Charlotte 
and  Branwell  were  the  leaders,  whilst  Emily  and  Anne  appear 
to  have  been  more  childish,  as  was  natural,  being  the  younger 
members  of  the  family.  Wellington  became  Charlotte's 
great  hero,  and  his  son's  name  became  her  nom  de  guerre ; 
many  of  her  earlier  manuscripts  are  signed  "  Lord  C. 
Wellesley,"  and  "  The  Marquis  of  Douro." 

This  make-believe  life  lasted  for  six  years,  and  imagination 
contributed  much  to  the  joy  of  their  uneventful  days.  Mrs. 


MRS.   ATKINSON  91 

Atkinson,  wife  of  the  Rev.  Thomas  Atkinson,  of  Hartshead 
— Charlotte's  godmother — suggested  that,  as  Charlotte  was 
now  nearly  fifteen  years  of  age,  she  ought  to  go  to  school,  and 
she  offered  to  pay  the  fees  to  Miss  Wooler's  school  at  Roe 
Head,  Dewsbury,  not  far  from  Hartshead. 


CHAPTER  VIII 

DEWSBURY 

1831-1832 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  journey  from  Haworth — Roe  Head  School — 
Kirklees  Hall — Ellen  Nussey  and  Caroline  Helstone — Mary  Taylor 
and  Rose  Yorke — Martha  Taylor  and  Jessy  Yorke — Miss  Wooler 
and  Mrs.  Pryor — Mary  Taylor  and  Ellen  Nussey. 

COWAN  BRIDGE  had  been  an  unfortunate  experiment,  but  now 
that  Charlotte  was  nearly  fifteen  years  of  age,  and  her  god- 
parents had  offered  to  pay  for  her  education,  it  was  decided 
that  she  should  again  go  to  school. 

The  little  author  of  so  many  small  manuscripts  was  to 
submit  to  "  a  new  servitude,"  but  as  duty  was  always  Charlotte 
Bronte's  watchword  she  went  bravely  on  a  cold  day  in  January, 
by  a  covered  cart,  from  Haworth  to  Mirfield  Moor,  a  distance 
of  about  twenty  miles. 

Mr.  Bronte  knew  the  district  well,  and  it  is  very  probable 
that  he  knew  Miss  Wooler,  for  her  school  was  not  far  from  his 
former  home  at  Hartshead.  But  if  he  did  not  know  the 
"good,  kind  schoolmistress,"  she  was  known  to  the  Rev. 
Thomas  Atkinson,  who  was  then  Vicar  of  Hartshead. 

Roe  Head  is  still  standing — a  large,  commodious  house, 
on  the  Leeds  and  Huddersfield  Road,  about  five  miles  from 
Huddersfield.  The  building  is  of  Georgian  date,  and  has  the 
old-fashioned  half-circular  bow  windows,  with  the  comfortable 
window  seats.  It  had  the  reputation  of  being  haunted  in 
Charlotte  Bronte's  days,  but  Miss  Wooler  very  soon  dispelled 
that  idea.  The  present  owners  say  no  ghost  ever  haunts  it 
now,  unless  it  be  the  spirit  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  which  Bronte 
lovers,  especially  Americans,  come  to  hunt.  It  was  offered 
for  sale  in  1911,  but  no  reasonable  bid  was  made,  and  it  was 
withdrawn.  When  visiting  it  some  years  ago,  the  writer  was 
asked  by  the  owner  why  one  of  the  Bronte'  worshippers  did  not 
purchase  it,  seeing  that  they  were  so  fond  of  visiting  the  former 
homes  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  and  enjoyed  exploring  the  district, 

92 


ROE  HEAD  SCHOOL  93 

which  has  become  to  be  known  as  Th$  Shirley  Country,  because 
of  its  association  with  the  novel.  To  visit  a  literary  shrine 
and  to  live  in  it  are  very  different.  Were  it  not  for  the  smoky 
surroundings,  caused  by  the  neighbouring  woollen  mills,  Roe 
Head  would  be  a  pleasant  residence  still.  The  house  is  large 
and  roomy,  and  stands  on  the  slope  of  Mirfield  Moor,  com- 
manding a  view  of  the  Calder  Valley.  Near  the  front  entrance 
is  the  old  tree,  under  which  Charlotte  Bronte  used  to  stand  or 
sit,  whilst  her  schoolmates  were  at  play  ;  she  considered  this 
a  much  pleasanter  way  of  spending  the  time  appointed  for 
recreation,  interested  in  the  shadows,  and  the  bits  of  sky 
seen  through  the  branches.  There  is  a  carriage  drive  to  the 
house,  which  is  surrounded  by  extensive  grounds.  The  former 
schoolroom  in  which  Ellen  Nussey  found  Charlotte  Bronte 
crying  on  her  first  arrival  at  the  school  is  pointed  out  to  visitors 
who  are  fortunate  in  gaining  admission,  and  her  favourite 
window  seat  is  to  be  seen. 

There  is  ample  bedroom  accommodation,  and  when  Charlotte 
Bronte  entered  the  school  there  were  but  seven  to  ten  pupils, 
so  that  Miss  Wooler  and  her  sister  were  able  to  give  much 
individual  attention  to  the  girls. 

Although  not  more  than  twenty  miles  from  the  moorland 
village  of  Haworth,  it  was  much  less  solitary,  and  a  far  more 
picturesque  neighbourhood,  and  the  change  was  a  great  benefit 
to  the  future  novelist. 

Near  to  the  school  is  the  beautiful  park  of  Kirklees — the 
Nunnwood  of  Shirley — and  Sir  George  Armytage's  Jacobean 
hall ;  in  the  grounds  is  the  reputed  tomb  of  Robin  Hood,  sur- 
rounded by  a  high  iron  fence.  In  another  part  of  the  park 
is  the  grave  of  the  man  who  is  supposed  to  have  caused 
Robin  Hood's  death.  In  a  hollow,  on  the  borders  of  the 
park,  are  the  remains  of  the  nunnery,  and  there  is  still  the 
old  gate-house  containing  some  reputed  relics  of  Robin  Hood. 

It  was  formerly  supposed,  on  the  suggestion  of  Ellen  Nussey, 
that  Kirklees  was  the  original  of  Ferndean  Manor  in  Jane  Eyre, 
but  recent  research  has  proved  that  Wycoller  Dean,  near 
Haworth,  is  the  spot  where  Jane  Eyre  found  Rochester,  and 
where  she  was  married  to  her  blind  master.  It  is  interesting 


94        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

to  remember  that  it  was  Charlotte  Bronte  herself  who  was 
afraid  she  was  going  blind  about  the  time  she  wrote  Jane  Eyre, 
according  to  a  letter  which  she  wrote  to  M.  Heger. 

The  time  spent  at  Roe  Head  proved  very  helpful  to  Charlotte 
Bronte  in  many  ways,  for  she  was  always  alert,  and,  in  addition 
to  the  improvement  in  her  general  education,  the  place  and 
people  served  her  well  when  she  wrote  Shirley. 

Describing  Kirklees  Park,  Charlotte  Bronte  says :  "It 
is  like  an  encampment  of  forest  sons  of  Anak.  The  trees 
are  huge  and  old.  When  you  stand  at  their  roots,  the 
summits  seem  in  another  region  ;  the  trunks  remain  still  and 
firm  as  pillars,  while  the  boughs  sway  to  every  breeze.  In 
the  deepest  calm  their  leaves  are  never  quite  hushed,  and  in 
high  wind  a  flood  rushes — a  sea  thunders  above  you." 

This  beautiful  country  was  as  welcome  to  the  future  author 
of  Shirley,  as  was  her  friendship  with  what  proved  to  be  her 
two  dearest  friends  from  this  neighbourhood — Ellen  Nussey 
and  Mary  Taylor.  The  place  was  also  dear  to  her  from  the 
associations  with  her  good  and  kind  schoolmistress,  Miss 
Wooler. 

Both  Ellen  Nussey  and  Mary  Taylor  have  left  a  faithful 
record  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  school  days  at  Roe  Head.  Ellen 
Nussey  always  affirmed  that  she  was  the  original  of  Caroline 
Helstone  in  Shirley ',  but  by  comparing  that  character  with 
what  is  known  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  life  there  is  much  more 
of  Charlotte  Bronte  than  of  Ellen  Nussey  in  the  character. 
Mary  Taylor  was  the  Rose  Yorke  of  the  novel,  and  the 
portraiture  is  very  correct.  "  What  a  lump  of  perfection 
you  have  made  me,"  wrote  Mary  Taylor  to  the  author  of 
Shirley.  The  merry,  laughing  Martha  Taylor  became  the 
Jessy  Yorke  of  the  story,  and  Mrs.  Pry  or  was  drawn  from  the 
character  of  Miss  Wooler. 

"  Mrs.  Pryor,  you  know,  was  my  governess,  and  is  still  my 
friend  ;  and  of  all  the  high  and  rigid  Tories,  she  is  queen  ;  of 
all  the  staunch  Churchwomen,  she  is  chief." 

Charlotte  found  a  good  friend,  whilst  at  Roe  Head,  in  her 
godmother,  Mrs.  Atkinson,  who  sometimes  took  her  little 


CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  IN   1831  95 

godchild  to  her  home  for  week-ends.      In  after  years,  Mrs. 
Atkinson,  who  had  supplied  her  with  clothes,  as  well  as  paid 
her  school  fees  and  given  a  kindly  oversight  to  her  whilst  at 
Roe  Head,  ceased  to  correspond  or  have  anything  to  do  with 
her,  because  she  did  not  approve  of  a  clergyman's  daughter 
writing  novels,  especially  novels  such  as  Jane  Eyre  and  Shirley ; 
where  the  clergy  of  the  district  were  so  freely  criticised. 
Mrs.  GaskelPs  description  of  Charlotte  is  interesting — 
"  In  1831,  she  was  a  quiet,  thoughtful  girl,  of  nearly  fifteen 
years  of  age,  very  small  in  figure — '  stunted  '  was  the  word 
she  applied  to  herself — but,  as  her  limbs  and  head  were  in  just 
proportion  to  the  slight,  fragile  body,  no  word  in  ever  so  slight 
a  degree  suggestive  of  deformity  could  properly  be  applied  to 
her  ;  with  soft,  thick,  brown  hair,  and  peculiar  eyes,  of  which 
I  find  it  difficult  to  give  a  description,  as  they  appeared  to  me 
in  her  later  life.    They  were  large,  and  well  shaped  ;    their 
colour  a  reddish  brown  ;  but  if  the  iris  was  closely  examined, 
it  appeared  to  be  composed  of  a  great  variety  of  tints.    The 
usual  expression   was  of  quiet,  listening  intelligence ;    but 
now  and  then,  on  some  just  occasion  for  vivid  interest  or  whole- 
some indignation,  a  light  would  shine  out,  as  if  some  spiritual 
lamp  had  been  kindled,  which  glowed  behind  those  expressive 
orbs.    I  never  saw  the  like  in  any  other  human  creature.    As 
for  the  rest  of  her  features,  they  were  plain,  large,  and  ill  set ; 
but,  unless  you  began  to  catalogue  them,  you  were  hardly 
aware  of  the  fact,  for  the  eyes  and  power  of  the  countenance 
overbalanced  every  physical  defect ;   the  crooked  mouth  and 
the  large  nose  were  forgotten,  and  the  whole  face  arrested  the 
attention,  and  presently  attracted  all  those  whom  she  herself 
would  have  cared  to  attract.    Her  hands  and  feet  were  the 
smallest  I  ever  saw ;   when  one  of  the  former  was  placed  in 
mine,  it  was  like  the  soft  touch  of  a  bird  in  the  middle  of  my 
palm.     The  delicate  long  fingers  had  a  peculiar  fineness  of 
sensation,  which  was  one  reason  why  all  her  handiwork,  of 
whatever  kind — writing,  sewing,  knitting — was  so  clear  in  its 
minuteness.    She  was  remarkably  neat  in  her  whole  personal 
attire  ;  but  she  was  dainty  as  to  the  fit  of  her  shoes  and  gloves." 
The  three  people  who  supplied  Mrs.  Gaskell  with  particulars 


96          IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTfiS 

of  Charlotte  BrontS's  life  at  this  time  were  her  schoolmistress, 
Ellen  Nussey,  and  Mary  Taylor.  The  latter  wrote  from  New 
Zealand,  nearly  twenty-five  years  after  she  was  at  school  at 
Roe  Head,  and  her  account  throws  much  light  on  this  period 
of  Charlotte  Bronte's  life. 

"  I  first  saw  her  coming  out  of  a  covered  cart,  in  very  old- 
fashioned  clothes,  and  looking  very  cold  and  miserable.  She 
was  coming  to  school  at  Miss  Wooler's.  When  she  appeared 
in  the  schoolroom,  her  dress  was  changed,  but  just  as  old.  She 
looked  a  little  old  woman,  so  short-sighted  that  she  always 
appeared  to  be  seeking  something,  and  moving  her  head  from 
side  to  side  to  catch  a  sight  of  it.  She  was  very  shy  and 
nervous,  and  spoke  with  a  strong  Irish  accent.  When  a  book 
was  given  her,  she  dropped  her  head  over  it  till  her  nose 
nearly  touched  it,  and  when  she  was  told  to  hold  her  head  up, 
up  went  the  book  after  it,  still  close  to  her  nose,  so  that  it  was 
not  possible  to  help  laughing.  .  .  .  We  thought  her  very 
ignorant,  for  she  had  never  learnt  grammar  at  all,  and  very 
little  geography. 

"  She  used  to  draw  much  better,  and  more  quickly,  than  any- 
thing we  had  seen  before,  and  knew  much  about  celebrated 
pictures  and  painters.  Whenever  an  opportunity  offered  of 
examining  a  picture  or  cut  of  any  kind,  she  went  over  it 
piecemeal,  with  her  eyes  close  to  the  paper,  looking  so  long 
that  we  used  to  ask  her  *  what  she  saw  in  it.'  She  could 
always  see  plenty,  and  explained  it  very  well.  She  made 
poetry  and  drawing,  at  least,  exceedingly  interesting  to  me ; 
and  then  I  got  the  habit,  which  I  have  yet,  of  referring 
mentally  to  her  opinion  on  all  matters  of  that  kind,  along 
with  many  more,  resolving  to  describe  such  and  such  things 
to  her,  until  I  start  at  the  recollection  that  I  never  shall."  .  . 

"  The  whole  family  used  to  *  make  out '  histories,  and 
invent  characters  and  events.  I  told  her  sometimes  they  were 
like  growing  potatoes  in  a  cellar.  She  said,  sadly,  *  Yes ! 
I  know  we  are  ! ' 

It  is  interesting  to  read  Charlotte  Bronte's  description  of 
Mary  Taylor  in  Shirley. 


ELLEN   NUSSEY   AND   CHARLOTTE   BRONTE    97 

Miss  Wooler  once  said  to  Mary  Taylor  that  when  she  first 
saw  her,  she  thought  her  too  pretty  to  live  ;  but  her  portrait 
in  later  years  did  not  support  this.  A  greater  friend  than 
Mary  Taylor  was  Ellen  Nussey,  who  gave  Mrs.  Gaskell  all  the 
information  she  could.  She,  herself,  did  not  publish  a  descrip- 
tion of  Charlotte  Bronte  until  1871,  when  in  Scribner's  Magazine 
she  wrote — 

"  Miss  Wooler's  system  of  education  required  that  a  good 
deal  of  her  pupils'  work  should  be  done  in  classes,  and  to  effect 
this,  new  pupils  had  generally  a  season  of  solitary  study  ;  but 
Charlotte's  fervent  application  made  this  period  a  very  short 
one  for  her — she  was  quickly  up  to  the  needful  standard,  and 
ready  for  the  daily  routine  and  arrangement  of  studies,  and  as 
quickly  did  she  outstrip  her  companions,  rising  from  the  bottom 
of  the  classes  to  the  top,  a  position  which,  when  she  had  once 
gained,  she  never  had  to  regain.  She  was  first  in  everything  but 
play,  yet  never  was  a  word  heard  of  envy  or  jealousy  from  her 
companions ;  everyone  felt  she  had  won  her  laurels  by  an 
amount  of  diligence  and  hard  labour  of  which  they  were 
incapable.  She  never  exulted  in  her  successes  or  seemed 
conscious  of  them  ;  her  mind  was  so  wholly  set  on  attaining 
knowledge  that  she  apparently  forgot  all  else. 

"  Charlotte's  appearance  did  not  strike  me  at  first  as  it  did 
others.  I  saw  her  grief,  not  herself  particularly,  till  after- 
wards. She  never  seemed  to  me  the  unattractive  little  person 
others  designated  her,  but  certainly  she  was  at  this  time 
anything  but  pretty  ;  even  her  good  points  were  lost.  Her 
naturally  beautiful  hair  of  soft  silky  brown  being  then  dry 
and  frizzy-looking,  screwed  up  in  tight  little  curls,  showing 
features  that  were  all  the  plainer  from  her  exceeding  thinness 
and  want  of  complexion,  she  looked  '  dried  in.'  A  dark, 
rusty  green  stuff  dress  of  old-fashioned  make  detracted  still 
more  from  her  appearance  ;  but  let  her  wear  what  she  might 
or  do  what  she  would,  she  had  ever  the  demeanour  of  a  born 
gentlewoman  ;  vulgarity  was  an  element  that  never  won  the 
slightest  affinity  with  her  nature.  Some  of  the  elder  girls 
who  had  been  years  at  school,  thought  her  ignorant.  This  was 
true  in  one  sense  ;  ignorant  she  was  indeed  in  the  elementary 

7— (2200) 


98         IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

education  which  was  given  in  schools,  but  she  far  surpassed 
her  most  advanced  school-fellows  in  knowledge  of  what  was 
passing  in  the  world  at  large,  and  in  the  literature  of  her 
country.  She  knew  thousands  of  things  unknown  to  them. 

"  About  a  month  after  the  assembling  of  the  school,  one  of 
the  pupils  had  an  illness.  There  was  great  competition  among 
the  girls  for  permission  to  sit  with  the  invalid.  Charlotte  was 
never  of  the  number,  though  she  was  as  assiduous  in  kindness 
and  attention  as  the  rest  in  spare  moments  :  but  to  sit  with  the 
patient  was  indulgence  and  leisure,  and  these  she  would  not 
permit  herself. 

"  It  was  shortly  after  this  illness  that  Charlotte  caused  such 
a  panic  of  terror  by  her  thrilling  relations  of  the  wanderings 
of  a  somnambulist.  She  brought  together  all  the  horrors  her 
imagination  could  create,  from  surging  seas,  raging  breakers, 
towering  castle  walls,  high  precipices,  invisible  chasms  and 
dangers. 

"  Having  wrought  these  materials  to  the  highest  pitch  of 
effect,  she  brought  out,  in  almost  cloud-height,  her  somnam- 
bulist, walking  on  shaking  turrets — all  told  in  a  voice  that 
conveyed  more  than  words  alone  can  express.  A  shivering 
terror  seized  the  recovered  invalid  ;  a  pause  ensued  ;  then  a 
subdued  cry  of  pain  came  from  Charlotte  herself,  with  a 
terrified  command  to  others  to  call  for  help.  She  was  in 
bitter  distress.  Something  like  remorse  seemed  to  linger  in 
her  mind  after  this  incident ;  for  weeks  there  was  no  prevailing 
on  her  to  resume  her  tales,  and  she  never  again  created  terrors 
for  her  listeners.  Tales,  however,  were  made  again  in  time, 
till  Miss  W.  discovered  there  was  'late  talking.'  That  was 
forbidden  ;  but  understanding  it  was  '  late  talk  '  only  which 
was  prohibited,  we  talked  and  listened  to  tales  again,  not 
expecting  to  hear  Miss  Wooler  say  one  morning,  '  All  the 
ladies  who  talked  last  night  must  pay  fines.  I  am  sure  Miss 
Bronte  and  Miss  Nussey  were  not  of  the  number.'  Miss 
Bronte  and  Miss  Nussey  were,  however,  transgressors  like  the 
rest,  and  rather  enjoyed  the  fact  of  having  to  pay  like  them, 
till  they  saw  Miss  Wooler's  grieved  and  disappointed  look. 
It  was  then  a  distress  that  they  had  failed  where  they  were 


CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  AS  A  SCHOLAR          99 

reckoned  uon    tho         unintentionally.    This  was  the 


to 
here  she  was  mortified  and  hurt. 


and 


100      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

She  evidently  was  longing  for  some  never-to-be-forgotten 
incident.  Nothing,  however,  arose  from  her  little  enterprise. 
She  had  to  leave  school  as  calmly  and  quietly  as  she  had  lived 
there." 

Although  Caroline  Helstone,  as  a  character,  owes  more  to 
Charlotte  Bronte  than  to  Ellen  Nussey,  yet  the  novelist  has 
drawn  a  beautiful  portrait  of  Ellen  Nussey  in  Shirley,  which 
those  who  knew  her  when  young  said  was  true  to  the  life. 

The  silver  medal  for  good  conduct,  won  by  Charlotte  Bronte, 
may  now  be  seen  in  the  Bronte  Museum,  stamped  with  the 
word  "  reward."  She  also  took  home  three  prizes  at  the  end 
of  her  first  year,  and  judging  by  a  letter  written  in  French,  soon 
after  she  went  home  in  the  following  year,  she  had  acquired  a 
fair  knowledge  of  that  language. 

Evidently  her  father  thought  she  might  be  useful  in  teaching 
the  younger  members  of  the  family,  and  when  she  was  about 
seventeen  she  returned  once  more  to  Haworth,  in  order  to 
teach  a  class  of  three  pupils — 4ier  two  sisters  and  her 
brother. 

The  first  sojourn  at  Roe  Head  was  a  very  happy  time,  for 
if  she  had  to  work  very  hard — harder  than  her  teacher  wished — 
she  had  many  little  pleasures,  not  the  least  being  her  visits 
to  her  godmother,  and  better  still,  to  the  homes  of  Mary  Taylor 
and  Ellen  Nussey. 

A  youth,  who  used  to  have  the  honour  of  driving  Charlotte 
Bronte  to  and  from  these  homes,  was  asked  which  home  he 
thought  she  preferred  ;  he  mentioned  Ellen  Nussey 's,  at  The 
Rydings,  Birstall,  where  he  noticed  the  evidences  of  much 
regret  when  taking  leave,  though  she  always  seemed  sorry 
to  leave  the  Red  House  at  Gomersal,  which  is  pictured  in 
Shirley  as  "  Briarmains,"  whilst  The  Rydings  figures  as 
"Thornfield." 


CHAPTER  IX 

HAWORTH,  ROE  HEAD  AND  DEWSBURY  MOOR 

1832-1838 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  returns  to  Haworth — Her  anxiety  for  the  future — 
She  continues  her  studies — Tuition  in  painting — Lines  to  Bewick 
— Charlotte  Bronte  and  Wordsworth — Her  correspondence 
with  Ellen  Nussey — The  Rydings,  Birstall — Ellen  Nussey's  visit 
to  Haworth — Branwell  Bronte's  visit  to  London — His  life  at 
Haworth — Charlotte  Bronte's  return  to  Roe  Head  accompanied 
by  Emily  Bronte — Uncongenial  tasks — Emily  Bronte  returns  to 
Haworth — Anne  Bronte  takes  Emily's  place  as  a  pupil  at  Roe 
Head — Anne's  illness — Transfer  of  Miss  Wooler's  school  from  Roe 
Head  to  Heald  House,  Dewsbury  Moor — Charlotte  and  Anne 
Bronte's  return  to  Haworth — Charlotte  Bronte's  correspondence 
with  Sou  they. 

AFTER  a  year  and  a  half  at  Roe  Head,  Charlotte  Bronte  left 
the  school  at  the  close  of  the  Midsummer  term.  She  returned 
to  Haworth  quite  happily,  for  to  be  with  her  sisters  always 
afforded  her  great  pleasure.  Mrs.  Gaskell  seems  to  have 
been  struck  by  her  lack  of  hopefulness,  and  she  judged 
her  by  her  letters  at  this  time.  Charlotte  was  the 
eldest,  and,  knowing  that  her  father  was  often  in  ill-health, 
she  dreaded  the  family  being  left  to  struggle  with  poverty. 
The  income  of  the  aunt  was  not  large,  and  there  were  no 
relatives  who  could  help  them  in  any  way.  This  seems  to 
have  made  Charlotte  over-anxious  about  the  future,  and  to 
this  fear  must  be  attributed  her  determination  to  qualify 
herself  to  earn  her  own  living.  She  worked  very  hard  at  her 
studies,  and  was  never  happy  except  when  improving  her 
qualifications.  In  connection  with  this  period  she  writes — 
"  An  account  of  one  day  is  an  account  of  all.  In  the 
morning,  from  nine  o  clock  till  half -past  twelve,  I  instruct 
my  sisters,  and  draw  ;  then  we  walk  till  dinner-time.  After 
dinner  I  sew  till  tea-time,  and  after  tea  I  either  write,  read,  or 
do  a  little  fancy  work,  or  draw,  as  I  please.  Thus,  in  one 
delightful  though  somewhat  monotonous  course,  my  life  is 
passed.  I  have  been  only  out  twice  to  tea  since  I  came  home. 

101 


102      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

We  are  expecting  company  this  afternoon,  and  on  Tuesday 
next  we  shall  have  all  the  female  teachers  of  the  Sunday  School 
to  tea." 

This  letter  shows  that  Charlotte  was  busy  and  happy,  and, 
to  add  to  her  pleasure,  her  father  paid  a  drawing-master  to 
come  to  the  parsonage  and  give  her  and  Bran  well  lessons  in 
drawing  and  painting.  Bran  well  was  to  be  a  great  artist 
some  day,  and  his  father  intended  that  he  should  finish  his 
studies  by  attending  at  the  Royal  Academy.  Both  Charlotte 
and  Branwell  completed  a  large  number  of  little  drawings, 
mostly  copies  ;  some,  however,  like  their  stories,  were  purely 
imaginative.  Both  the  father  and  aunt  thought  that  these 
sketches  were  wonderful,  and  so  did  Mr.  Wood,  the  village 
carpenter,  who  lived  a  little  distance  down  the  steep  Main 
street  of  Haworth.  In  later  years,  he  never  tired  of  telling 
how  the  Vicar's  children  were  in  the  habit  of  coming  to  his 
workshop  to  obtain  frames  for  their  drawings  ;  they  were  too 
proud  to  accept  them  as  presents,  and  they  were  accustomed 
to  give  him  a  drawing  in  exchange  for  a  frame,  which  he  usually 
made  from  the  odds  and  ends  of  his  larger  picture  frames. 
He  regarded  their  work  as  of  little  value,  but  afterwards,  when 
the  Bronte  girls  became  famous,  he  regretted  that  he  had  not 
kept  all  these  little  sketches,  some  of  which  were  in  colour. 
His  sons  remember  seeing  quite  a  large  collection  of  these 
drawings  in  one  of  the  drawers,  but  they  have  all  been  des- 
troyed or  scattered.  Mr.  Bronte  thought  so  highly  of  his 
children's  ability  in  art,  that  he  determined  to  provide  for  them 
more  efficient  training,  and  a  Mr.  W.  Robinson  of  Leeds, 
was  engaged  to  visit  the  vicarage  for  the  purpose  of  giving 
lessons  to  Charlotte  and  Branwell  at  two  guineas  for  each  visit. 

It  can  never  be  said  that  Patrick  Bronte  was  niggardly  in 
providing  for  the  education  of  his  children,  although  he  had 
little  to  spare  out  of  his  small  salary. 

Charlotte  Bronte's  weak  eyesight  prevented  her  becoming 
a  successful  artist,  and  Branwell's  conceit  always  stood  in 
the  way  of  his  doing  great  things.  There  are  several  large 
canvases  to  be  seen  in  and  around  Haworth  that  were 


CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  AND  BEWICK    103 

executed  by  Branwell :  two  are  in  the  possession  of  the  village 
carpenter's  family.  Martha  Brown's  niece  also  has  an  oil 
painting  of  John  Brown,  the  sexton,  and  in  Dewsbury  there 
are  several  oil-paintings — the  work  of  Branwell  when  he  lodged 
in  Fountain  Street,  Bradford.  Mrs.  Ingram  and  Mr.  Wood, 
the  owners  of  these  paintings,  spoke  most  highly  of  Branwell 
Bronte,  and  were  indignant  to  find  him  described  as  a  brainless 
sot,  which  is  absolutely  untrue. 

The  colour  of  these  family  portraits  is  still  good,  but  they 
reveal  little  more  than  aptitude  for  painting,  and  some  small 
evidence  of  talent.  Branwell,  unlike  his  sisters,  disliked 
plodding  ;  he  had  not  much  patience,  and,  though  clever  in 
many  ways,  he  considered  that  he  could  succeed  without 
effort  or  diligent  application. 

Charlotte  says  that  at  this  time  her  greatest  enjoyments 
were  drawing  and  walking  on  the  moors  with  her  sisters.  That 
she  did  not  neglect  her  writing  is  proved  by  her  Lines  on  the 
Celebrated  Bewick,  dated  27th  November,  1832,  which  have 
never  been  published  in  Charlotte  Bronte's  collection  of  poems. 
This  poem  of  twenty  verses  was  first  published  in  Mr.  Hall's 
little  Guide  to  Haworth.  He  has  kindly  allowed  it  to  be 
copied — 

"  LINES  ON  THE  CELEBRATED  BEWICK. 

The  cloud  of  recent  death  is  past  away, 
But  yet  a  shadow  lingers  o'er  his  tomb 

To  tell  that  the  pale  standard  of  decay 

Is  reared  triumphant  o'er  life's  sullied  bloom. 

But  now  the  eye  undimmed  by  tears  may  gaze 
On  the  fair  lines  his  gifted  pencil  drew, 

The  tongue  unfalt'ring  speaks  its  meed  of  praise 
When  we  behold  those  scenes  to  nature  true — 

True  to  the  common  Nature  that  we  see 

In  England's  sunny  fields,  her  hills,  and  vales, 

On  the  wild  bosom  of  her  storm-dark  sea 
Still  heaving  to  the  wind  that  o'er  it  wails. 

How  many  winged  inhabitants  of  air, 

How  many  plume-clad  floaters  of  the  deep, 

The  mighty  artist  drew  in  forms  as  fair 

As  those  that  now  the  skies  and  waters  sweep  ! 


104       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

From  the  great  eagle  with  his  lightning  eye, 
His  tyrant  glance,  his  talons  dyed  in  blood, 

To  the  sweet  breather-forth  of  melody, 
The  gentle  merry  minstrel  of  the  wood. 

Each  in  his  attitude  of  Native  grace 
Looks  on  the  gazer  life-like,  free  and  bold, 

And  if  the  rocks  be  his  abiding  place 

Far  off  appears  the  winged  marauder's  hold. 

But  if  the  little  builder  rears  his  nest 

In  the  still  shadow  of  green  tranquil  trees, 

And  singing  sweetly  mid  the  silence  blest 
Sits  a  meet  emblem  of  untroubled  peace, 

'  A  change  comes  o'er  the  spirit  of  our  dream,' — 
Woods  wave  around  in  crested  majesty, 

We  almost  feel  the  joyous  sunshine's  beam 
And  hear  the  breath  of  the  sweet  south  go  by. 

Our  childhood's  days  return  again  in  thought, 
We  wander  in  a  land  of  love  and  light, 

And  mingled  memories  joy — and  sorrow — fraught 
Gush  on  our  hearts  with  overwhelming  might. 

Sweet  flowers  seem  gleaming  mid  the  tangled  grass, 
Sparkling  with  spray-drops  from  the  rushing  rill, 

And  as  these  fleeting  visions  fade  and  pass 

Perchance  some  pensive  tears  our  eyes  may  fill. 

These  soon  are  wiped  away ;   again  we  turn 
With  fresh  delight  to  the  enchanted  page, 

Where  pictured  thoughts  that  breathe  and  speak  and  burn 
Still  please  alike  our  youth  and  riper  age. 

There  rises  some  lone  rock,  all  wet  with  surge 
And  dashing  billows  glimmering  in  the  light 

Of  a  wan  moon,  whose  silent  rays  emerge 

From  clouds  that  veil  their  lustre  cold  and  bright. 

And  there  'mongst  reeds  upon  a  river's  side 
A  wild-bird  sits,  and  brooding  o'er  her  nest 

Still  guards  the  priceless  gems,  her  joy  and  pride, 
Now  ripening  'neath  her  hope-enlivened  breast. 


EARLY  POEM  BY  CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  105 

We  turn  the  page ;  before  the  expectant  eye 
A  Traveller  stands  lone  on  some  desert  heath, 

The  glorious  sun  is  passing  from  the  sky 
While  fall  his  farewell  rays  on  all  beneath. 

O'er  the  far  hills  a  purple  veil  seems  flung, 
Dim  herald  of  the  coming  shades  of  night ; 

E'en  now  Diana's  lamp  aloft  is  hung 
Drinking  full  radiance  from  the  fount  of  light. 

O,  when  the  solemn  wind  of  midnight  sighs, 
Where  will  the  lonely  traveller  lay  his  head  ? 

Beneath  the  tester  of  the  star-bright  skies 
On  the  wild  moor  he'll  find  a  dreary  bed. 

Now  we  behold  a  marble  Naiad  placed 

Beside  a  fountain  on  her  sculptured  throne, 

Her  bending  form  with  simplest  beauty  graced, 
Her  white  robes  gathered  in  a  snowy  zone. 

She  from  a  polished  vase  pours  forth  a  stream 
Of  sparkling  water  to  the  waves  below, 

Which  roll  in  light  and  music,  while  the  gleam 
Of  sunshine  flings  through  shade  a  golden  glow. 

A  hundred  fairer  scenes  these  leaves  reveal, — 

But  there  are  tongues  that  injure  while  they  praise  ; 

I  cannot  speak  the  rapture  that  I  feel 
When  on  the  work  of  such  a  mind  I  gaze. 

Then  farewell,  Bewick,  genius'  favoured  son, 
Death's  sleep  is  on  thee,  all  thy  woes  are  past, 

From  earth  departed,  life  and  labour  done, 
Eternal  peace  and  rest  are  thine  at  last. 

(Signed)  C.  BRONTE." 
November  27th,  1832. 

This  poem  was  written  in  the  November  of  the  year  in  which 
Charlotte  Bronte  returned  home  from  Roe  Head,  when  sixteen 
and  a  half  years  of  age,  and  it  is  significant  that  in  the  beginning 
of  the  first  chapter  of  Jane  Eyre  she  speaks  of  "A  drear 


106      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

November  afternoon,  when  she  was  carefully  studying  the 
beautiful  engravings  in  Bewick's  History  of  British  Birds." 

Of  Bewick's  two  books,  Volume  I,  dealing  with  the  history 
of  quadrupeds,  was  published  in  1790,  and  Volume  II,  which 
dealt  with  the  history  of  British  birds,  was  issued  in  1797. 
Bewick  died  in  1828,  four  years  before  Charlotte  Bronte  wrote 
her  poem. 

Bewick's  British  Birds  was  included  in  Patrick  Bronte's 
collection  of  books,  for  the  late  Mr.  Law,  of  Littleboro,  pur- 
chased a  copy  of  Bewick's  Birds  at  the  Bronte  sale  in  1886. 
The  minute  engravings  must  have  attracted  Charlotte  Bronte 
especially,  for  she  was  very  fond  of  copying  pictures. 

Bewick  was  the  first  engraver  on  wood  in  England  and,  like 
the  Brontes,  he  was  passionately  fond  of  wild  birds  and 
animals.  With  his  great  love  of  nature  and  his  power  to 
depict  it,  he  fostered  the  similar  taste  in  Charlotte  Bronte 
and  her  sisters,  who  revelled  in  the  moors,  the  changing  skies, 
and  the  wild  birds  on  the  moor. 

In  Wuthering  Heights  Emily  tells  of  Cathy,  in  her  delirium, 
picking  out  the  feathers  from  the  pillow  and  naming  them 
one  by  one. 

In  his  History  of  British  Birds,  Bewick  has  drawn  some 
exquisite  little  vignettes  of  the  feathers  of  different  birds, 
with  clear,  delicate  lines  as  fine  as  a  hair,  and  the  Brontes 
not  only  knew  the  name  of  each  bird  on  the  Haworth  moors, 
but  they  could  tell  the  bird  from  seeing  a  single  feather.  Just 
as  there  is  a  Bronte  Museum  at  Haworth,  with  specimens  of 
the  drawings  and  writings  of  the  Brontes,  so  at  Newcastle-on- 
Tyne  there  is  a  Bewick  Museum,  containing  some  original  draw- 
ings and  paintings  by  Bewick.  Here  are  to  be  seen  his  early 
studies  and  suggestions  ;  nothing  was  too  insignificant  for 
his  pencil.  In  the  Bewick  Museum  may  be  seen  the  little 
picture,  with  its  suggestive  moral,  of  a  traveller  trying  to  hoist 
his  heavy  sack  upon  his  back  before  starting  once  more  upon 
his  tramp,  whilst  a  little  demon,  with  horns  and  tail — the  usual 
method  in  those  days  of  depicting  the  devil  for  children — is 
mischievously  pinning  the  load  securely  down.  Charlotte 
Bronte  refers  to  this  picture  in  Jane  Eyre. 


BEWICK'S  HISTORY  OF  BIRDS  107 

When  Ellen  Nussey  asked  Charlotte  Bronte,  at  the  age  of 
eighteen,  what  she  should  read,  she  suggested  for  natural 
history  Bewick  and  Audubon. 

Charlotte  Bronte  was  at  this  time  a  great  admirer  of  Words- 
worth, and  she  may  have  been  prompted  to  write  a  eulogy 
on  the  great  engraver  by  Wordsworth's  lines  in  his  Lyrical 
Ballads— 

"  O  now  that  the  genius  of  Bewick  were  mine, 
And  the  skill  which  he  learned  on  the  banks  of  the  Tyne." 

There  is  one  little  vignette  on  page  256  of  Bewick's  History 
of  Birds  that  Charlotte  Bronte  refers  to  in  Jane  Eyre.  "  I 
cannot  tell  what  sentiment  haunted  the  quiet  churchyard, 
with  its  inscribed  headstone,  its  gate,  its  two  trees,  its  low 
horizon,  girdled  by  a  broken  wall,  and  its  newly-risen  crescent, 
attesting  the  hour  of  evening."  Though  she  goes  into  all 
these  minute  details,  she  does  not  mention  the  peculiar 
inscription  on  the  tombstone,  which  reads — 

"  GOOD  TIMES 
AND  BAD  TIMES 
AND  ALL  TIMES 
GET  OVER." 

This  may  have  comforted  Charlotte  Bronte  as  it  did  Jane 
Eyre,  as  she  sat  hiding  in  the  window-seat,  reading  and 
analysing  Bewick. 

Her  poem  on  Bewick,  written  in  1832,  helps  to  prove  that 
the  early  part  of  Jane  Eyre  was  autobiographical,  and  that 
aunt  Branwell  was  the  original  of  "  Mrs.  Reed,"  though  it  is 
not  all  true  to  fact.  Charlotte  Bronte  paraphrased  as  well  as 
quoted  some  of  Bewick's  writing  in  her  opening  chapter  of 
Jane  Eyre,  and  her  quotation  from  the  poet  Thomson  is  also 
from  a  page  of  Bewick. 

It  was  in  those  years,  after  Charlotte  Bronte's  visit  to  Roe 
Head,  that  her  voluminous  correspondence  with  Ellen  Nussey 
began.  The  girls  had  vowed  eternal  friendship  in  school  girl 
fashion,  and  had  promised  to  write  to  each  other  once  a  month. 
Charlotte,  with  the  idea  of  improving  herself,  suggested  that 
they  should  correspond  in  French. 


108       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

After  leaving  Roe  Head,  Charlotte  was  frequently  invited 
to  Ellen  Nussey's  home  at  the  Rydings,  Birstall.  The  building 
is  still  there,  but  it  has  been  divided  into  two  houses.  When 
I  was  privileged  to  go  through  the  building,  Charlotte's  bed- 
room was  pointed  out,  and  in  the  grounds  is  the  sunk  fence  in 
which  the  lightning-struck  tree  mentioned  in  Jane  Eyre  was 
to  be  seen  some  few  years  ago,  held  together  by  iron  hoops. 
The  house  originally  belonged  to  Mr.  John  Green,  a  wealthy 
Yorkshireman,  who  owned  several  ancient  halls  in  Yorkshire. 

A  descendant  of  this  Mr.  John  Green,  Mr.  J.  J.  Green  of 
Hastings,  married  a  daughter  of  Emily  Wheelwright,  who  was 
at  school  with  Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte  in  Brussels,  and 
received  music  lessons  from  Emily  Bronte.  The  Rydings 
figures  in  Jane  Eyre  as  "  Thornfield,"  though  the  interior 
of  Norton  Conyers,  near  Harrogate,  contributes  something 
to  it. 

Ellen  Nussey  was  one  of  a  family  of  eleven,  who  were  all 
present  at  her  twenty-first  birthday  party  on  22nd  April, 
1837.  She  outlived  them  all  and  died  on  26th  November, 
1897,  aged  eighty.  The  day  of  her  funeral  was  very  wet  and 
wild,  but  the  Birstall  churchyard  was  crowded,  people  coming 
from  long  distances,  not  only  out  of  respect  for  Miss  Nussey, 
but  because  she  had  been  the  faithful  friend  of  Charlotte 
Bronte.  The  grave-stone  was  so  crowded  that  Ellen's  name 
lias  had  to  be  engraved  on  the  side  of  the  stone. 

In  1871  she  wrote  for  Scribncr's  Magazine  an  account  of 
her  first  visit  to  Haworth — 

"  My  first  visit  to  Haworth  was  full  of  novelty  and  freshness. 
The  scenery  for  some  miles  before  we  reached  Haworth  was 
wild  and  uncultivated,  with  hardly  any  population  ;  at  last 
we  came  to  what  seemed  a  terrific  hill,  such  a  deep  declivity 
no  one  thought  of  riding  down  it ;  the  horse  had  to  be  carefully 
led.  We  no  sooner  reached  the  foot  of  this  hill  than  we  had 
to  begin  to  mount  again,  over  a  narrow,  rough,  stone-paved 
road  ;  the  horse's  feet  seemed  to  catch  at  the  boulders  as  if 
climbing.  When  we  reached  the  top  of  the  village  there  was 
apparently  no  outlet,  but  we  were  directed  to  drive  into  an 
entry  which  just  admitted  the  gig  ;  we  wound  round  in  this 


ELLEN   NUSSEY'S  VISIT  TO  HAWORTH       109 

entry  and  then  saw  the  church  close  at  hand,  and  we  entered 
on  the  short  lane  which  led  to  the  parsonage  gateway.  Here 
Charlotte  was  waiting,  having  caught  the  sound  of  the  approach- 
ing gig.  When  greetings  and  introductions  were  over,  Miss 
Branwell  (the  aunt  of  the  Brontes)  took  possession  of  their 
guest  and  treated  her  with  the  care  and  solicitude  due  to  a 
weary  traveller.  Mr.  Bronte,  also,  was  stirred  out  of  his  usual 
retirement  by  his  own  kind  consideration,  for  not  only  the 
guest  but  the  man-servant  and  the  horse  were  to  be  made 
comfortable.  He  made  inquiries  about  the  man,  of  his 
length  of  service,  etc.,  with  the  kind  purpose  of  making  a  few 
moments  of  conversation  agreeable  to  him. 

"  Even  at  this  time,  Mr.  Bronte  struck  me  as  looking  very 
venerable,  with  his  snow-white  hair  and  powdered  coat-collar. 
His  manner  and  mode  of  speech  always  had  the  tone  of  high- 
bred courtesy.  He  was  considered  somewhat  of  an  invalid, 
and  always  lived  in  the  most  abstemious  and  simple  manner. 
His  white  cravat  was  not  then  so  remarkable  as  it  grew  to  be 
afterwards.  He  was  in  the  habit  of  covering  this  cravat 
himself.  We  never  saw  the  operation,  but  we  always  had  to 
wind  for  him  the  white  sewing-silk  which  he  used.  Charlotte 
said  it  was  her  father's  one  extravagance — he  cut  up  yards 
and  yards  of  white  lute-striag  (silk)  in  covering  his  cravat ; 
and,  like  Dr.  Joseph  Woolffe  (the  renowned  and  learned 
traveller),  who,  when  on  a  visit  and  in  a  long  fit  of  absence, 
4  went  into  a  clean  shirt  every  day  for  a  week,  without  taking 
one  off,'  till  at  length  nearly  half  his  head  was  enveloped  in 
cravat.  His  liability  to  bronchial  attacks,  no  doubt,  attached 
him  to  this  increasing  growth  of  cravat. 

"  Miss  Branwell,  their  aunt,  was  a  small,  antiquated  little 
lady.  She  wore  caps  large  enough  for  half  a  dozen  of  the 
present  fashion,  and  a  front  of  light  auburn  curls  over  her 
forehead.  She  always  dressed  in  silk.  She  had  a  horror  of 
the  climate  so  far  north,  and  of  the  stone  floors  of  the  parsonage. 
She  amused  us  by  clicking  about  in  pattens  whenever  she  had 
to  go  into  the  kitchen  or  look  after  household  operations. 

"  She  talked  a  great  deal  of  her  younger  days  ;  the  gaieties 
of  her  native  town,  Penzance,  in  Cornwall ;  the  soft  warm 


110      IN   THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

climate,  etc.  The  social  life  of  her  younger  days  she  used  to 
recall  with  regret ;  she  gave  one  the  idea  that  she  had  been 
a  belle  among  her  own  home  acquaintances.  She  took  snuff 
out  of  a  very  pretty  gold  snuff-box,  which  she  sometimes 
presented  to  you  with  a  little  laugh,  as  if  she  enjoyed  the  slight 
shock  and  astonishment  visible  in  your  countenance.  In 
summer  she  spent  part  of  the  afternoon  in  reading  aloud  to 
Mr.  Bronte.  In  the  winter  evenings  she  must  have  enjoyed 
this  ;  for  she  and  Mr.  Bronte  had  often  to  finish  their  discus- 
sions on  what  she  had  read  when  we  all  met  for  tea.  She  would 
be  very  lively  and  intelligent,  and  tilt  arguments  against  Mr. 
Bronte  without  fear. 

"  '  Tabby,'  the  faithful,  trustworthy  old  servant,  was  very 
quaint  in  appearance — very  active,  and,  in  these  days,  the 
general  servant  and  factotum.  We  were  all  'childer'  and 
4  bairns,*  in  her  estimation.  She  still  kept  to  her  duty  of 
walking  oat  with  the  '  childer  '  if  they  went  any  distance  fiom 
home,  unless  Bran  well  were  sent  by  his  father  as  a  protector. 
Poor  '  Tabby  '  in  later  days,  after  she  had  been  attacked  with 
paralysis,  would  most  anxiously  look  out  for  such  duties  as 
she  was  still  capable  of.  The  postman  was  her  special  point 
of  attention.  She  did  not  approve  of  the  inspection  which 
the  younger  eyes  of  her  fellow-servant  bestowed  on  his  deli- 
veries. She  jealously  seized  them  when  she  could,  and  carried 
them  off  with  hobbling  step  and  shaking  head  and  hand  to  the 
safe  custody  of  Charlotte. 

"  Emily  Bronte"  had  by  this  time  acquired  a  lithesome,  grace- 
ful figure.  She  was  the  tallest  person  in  the  house,  except  her 
father.  Her  hair,  which  was  naturally  as  beautiful  as  Char- 
lotte's, was  in  the  same  unbecoming  tight  curl  and  frizz,  and 
there  was  the  same  want  of  complexion.  She  had  very 
beautiful  eyes — kind,  kindling,  liquid  eyes  ;  but  she  did  not 
often  look  at  you  ;  she  was  too  reserved.  Their  colour  might 
be  said  to  be  dark  grey,  at  other  times  dark  blue,  they  varied 
so.  She  talked  very  little.  She  and  Anne  were  like  twins — 
inseparable  companions,  and  in  the  very  closest  sympathy, 
which  never  had  any  interruption. 

"  Anne — dear,  gentle  Anne — was  quite  different  in  appearance 


RAMBLES   ON   THE   MOORS  111 

from  the  others.  She  was  her  aunt's  favourite.  Her  hair 
was  a  very  pretty  light  brown,  and  fell  on  her  neck  in  graceful 
curls.  She  had  lovely  violet-blue  eyes,  fine  pencilled  eye- 
brows, and  clear,  almost  transparent  complexion.  She  still 
pursued  her  studies,  and  especially  her  sewing,  under  the 
surveillance  of  her  aunt.  Emily  had  now  begun  to  have  the 
disposal  of  her  own  time. 

"  In  fine  and  suitable  weather  delightful  rambles  were  made 
over  the  moors  and  down  into  glens  and  ravines  that  here  and 
there  broke  the  monotony  of  the  moorland.  The  rugged 
bank  and  rippling  brook  were  treasures  of  delight.  Emily, 
Anne,  and  Branwell  used  to  ford  the  streams,  and  sometimes 
placed  stepping-stones  for  the  other  two  ;  there  was  always 
a  lingering  delight  in  these  sports — every  moss,  every  flower, 
every  tint  and  form,  were  noted  and  enjoyed.  Emily  espe- 
cially had  gleesome  delight  in  these  nooks  of  beauty — her 
reserve  for  the  time  vanished.  One  long  ramble  made  in  these 
early  days  was  far  away  over  the  moors,  to  a  spot  familiar 
to  Emily  and  Anne,  which  they  called  4  The  Meeting  of  the 
Waters.'  It  was  a  small  oasis  of  emerald  green  turf,  broken 
here  and  there  by  small  clear  springs  ;  a  few  large  stones 
served  as  resting-places  ;  seated  here,  we  were  hidden  from  all 
the  world,  nothing  appearing  in  view  but  miles  and  miles  of 
heather,  a  glorious  blue  sky,  and  brightening  sun.  A  fresh 
breeze  wafted  on  us  its  exhilaiating  influence  ;  we  laughed  and 
made  mirth  of  each  other,  and  settled  we  would  call  ourselves 
the  quartette.  Emily,  half  reclining  on  a  slab  of  stone,  played 
like  a  young  child  with  the  tadpoles  in  the  water,  making 
them  swim  about,  and  then  fell  to  moralising  on  the  strong 
and  the  weak,  the  brave  and  the  cowardly,  as  she  chased  them 
with  her  hand.  No  serious  care  or  sorrow  had  so  far  cast  its 
gloom  on  nature's  youth  and  buoyancy,  and  nature's  simplest 
offerings  were  fountains  of  pleasure  and  enjoyment. 

"  The  interior  of  the  now  far-famed  parsonage  lacked 
drapery  of  all  kinds.  Mr.  Bronte's  horror  of  fire  forbade  cur- 
tains to  the  windows  ;  they  never  had  these  accessories  to 
comfort  and  appearance  till  long  after  Charlotte  was  the  only 
inmate  of  the  family  sitting-room — she  then  ventured  on  the 


112       IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

innovation  when  her  friend  was  with  her  ;  it  did  not  please 
her  father,  but  it  was  not  forbidden.  There  was  not  much 
carpet  anywhere  except  in  the  sitting-room,  and  on  the  study 
floor.  The  hall  floor  and  stairs  were  done  with  sand-stone, 
always  beautifully  clean,  as  everything  was  about  the  house  ; 
the  walls  were  not  papered,  but  stained  in  a  pretty  dove- 
coloured  tint ;  hair-seated  chairs  and  mahogany  tables,  book- 
shelves in  the  study,  but  not  many  of  these  elsewhere.  Scant 
and  bare  indeed,  many  will  say,  yet  it  was  not  a  scantness 
that  made  itself  felt.  Mind  and  thought,  I  had  almost  said 
elegance,  but  certainly  refinement,  diffused  themselves  over 
all,  and  made  nothing  really  wanting. 

"  A  little  later  on  there  was  tne  addition  of  a  piano.  Emily, 
after  some  application,  played  with  precision  and  brilliancy. 
Anne  played  also,  but  she  preferred  soft  harmonies  and  vocal 
music.  She  sang  a  little  ;  her  voice  was  weak,  but  very  sweet 
in  tone. 

"  Mr.  Bronte's  health  caused  him  to  retire  early.  He  assem- 
bled his  household  for  family  worship  at  eight  o  clock  ;  at  nine 
he  locked  and  barred  the  front  door,  always  giving,  as  he 
passed  the  sitting-room  door,  a  kindly  admonition  to  the 
4  children  '  not  to  be  late  ;  half-way  up  the  stairs  he  stayed  his 
steps  to  wind  up  the  clock. 

"  Every  morning  was  heard  the  firing  of  a  pistol  from 
Mr.  Bronte's  room  window ;  it  was  the  discharging  of  the 
loading  which  was  made  every  night.  Mr.  Bronte's  tastes  led 
him  to  delight  in  the  perusal  of  battle-scenes,  and  in  following 
the  artifice  of  war  ;  had  he  entered  on  military  service  instead 
of  ecclesiastical,  he  would  probably  have  had  a  very  distin- 
guished career.  The  self-denials  and  privations  of  camp-life 
would  have  agreed  entirely  with  his  nature,  for  he  was  remark- 
ably independent  of  the  luxuries  and  comforts  of  life.  The 
only  dread  he  had  was  of  fire,  and  this  dread  was  so  intense 
it  caused  him  to  prohibit  all  but  silk  or  woollen  dresses  for  his 
daughters  ;  indeed,  for  anyone  to  wear  any  other  kind  of  fabric 
was  almost  to  forfeit  his  respect. 

"  During  Miss  Bran  well's  reign  at  the  parsonage,  the  love  of 
animals  had  to  be  kept  in  due  subjection.  There  was  then 


LOVE   OF  ANIMALS  113 

but  one  dog,  which  was  admitted  to  the  parlour  at  stated 
times.  Emily  and  Anne  always  gave  him  a  portion  of  their 
breakfast,  which  was,  by  their  own  choice,  the  old  north  country 
diet  of  oatmeal  porridge.  Later  on,  there  were  three  household 
pets — the  tawny,  strong-limbed  '  Keeper/  Emily's  favourite  : 
he  was  so  completely  under  her  control,  she  could  quite  easily 
make  him  spring  and  roar  like  a  lion.  She  taught  him  this 
kind  of  occasional  play  without  any  coercion.  *  Flossy  ' — 
long,  silky-haired,  black  and  white  '  Flossy  ' — was  Anne's 
favourite ;  and  black  '  Tom/  the  tabby,  was  everybody's 
favourite.  It  received  such  gentle  treatment  it  seemed  to 
have  lost  cat's  nature,  and  subsided  into  luxurious  amiability 
and  contentment.  The  Brontes'  love  of  dumb  creatures  made 
them  very  sensitive  of  the  treatment  bestowed  upon  them. 
For  anyone  to  offend  in  this  respect  was  with  them  an 
infallible  bad  sign,  and  a  blot  on  the  disposition." 

A  visitor  does  not  always  see  the  true  family  picture.  Whilst 
Ellen  Nussey  was  staying  at  the  parsonage,  there  were  no  doubt 
many  signs  of  what  may  be  regarded  as  a  happy  home.  As  it 
was  summer  time,  Miss  Bran  well  came  downstairs  to  her  meals, 
and  the  father  left  his  study  to  dine  with  his  children  and  tell 
tales  of  his  younger  days,  of  Haworth,  and  of  the  surrounding 
neighbourhood.  But  this  was  not  the  usual  routine,  and  it 
was  calculated  to  create  a  more  favourable  impression  than  the 
family  life  warranted.  Bran  well  was  beginning  to  be  more 
troublesome  ;  the  vanity,  which  was  a  prominent  feature  in 
his  character,  was  really  his  besetting  sin.  His  letters  to 
Coleridge,  Wordsworth  and  the  editor  of  BlackwoocTs  Magazine, 
showed  an  excited  brain,  and  there  is  no  doubt  that  at  times 
his  mind  was  unbalanced,  as  his  letters  and  some  of  his  poems 
indicate. 

Charlotte  Bronte  tells  of  Emily  being  bitten  by  a  mad  dog, 
and  how  her  sister  cauterised  the  wound  with  a  red-hot  iron. 
She  does  not  refer  to  the  fact  that  Branwell,  when  a  boy,  was 
bitten  by  a  dog,  and  in  his  case  the  wound  was  not  cauterised. 
It  was  only  years  afterwards,  when  he  became  so  difficult  to 
manage,  that  the  bite  by  the  dog  was  referred  to.  Whether 
it  had  anything  to  do  with  his  lack  of  control  is  doubtful ; 

8— (2200) 


114       IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONT&S 

all  the  members  of  the  home  combined  to  spoil  him,  and  in 
cases  where  the  sisters  would  have  been  corrected,  he  was 
allowed  to  pass  unpunished,  and  his  faults  were  even  attributed 
to  manliness  as  opposed  to  being  effeminate.  Charlotte 
speaks  of  his  handsome  face,  and  says  that  nature  had  been 
kinder  to  him  than  to  his  sisters.  That  he  went  to  London 
is  certain,  though  Mrs.  Gaskell  did  not  get  to  know  this ;  but 
he  soon  got  through  all  the  money  his  father  had  allowed 
him,  giving  useless  excuses,  such  as  that  he  had  been  robbed 
by  a  fellow-traveller.  The  old  Vicar  saw  that  Bran  well  was 
not  to  be  trusted  in  London,  and  he  was  brought  back  ;  he 
had  none  of  his  sisters'  stern  application  to  duty.  The 
people  of  Haworth  laughed  at  him,  and  treated  him  as  one 
quite  lacking  in  ordinary  common  sense,  though  sociable  to 
a  fault. 

The  Black  Bull  at  Haworth,  which  has  been  considered 
by  some  people  to  some  extent  responsible  for  BranwelPs 
downfall,  was  a  very  respectable  village  inn,  kept  by  a  suc- 
cession of  members  of  the  Sugden  family,  who  would  not 
tolerate  conduct  likely  to  jeopardise  their  good  name.  When 
the  landlord  was  taxed  with  having  sent  for  Branwell,  in  order 
to  entertain  the  guests,  he  replied  :  "  I  never  sent  for  him  at 
all ;  he  came  himself,  hard  enough."  He  admitted,  however, 
that  sometimes  the  Vicar  or  his  daughters  would  call  at  the 
front  door  to  enquire  if  Branwell  was  there,  upon  which  occa- 
sions Branwell  would  jump  through  the  kitchen  window,  or 
go  through  the  back  door,  when  the  landlord  would  be  able 
to  give  a  satisfactory  answer. 

There  must  have  been  some  good  in  him,  for  his  friends,  and 
even  those  who  were  merely  acquaintances,  had  much  to  say 
in  his  favour.  Francis  A.  Leyland,  January  Searle  (George 
Searle  Phillips),  Francis  H.  Grundy,  and  many  who  knew 
him  in  Haworth  pitied  rather  than  blamed  him.  They  con- 
sidered that  he  was  easily  led  and  unbalanced  in  character. 
No  one  took  him  seriously  ;  people  laughed  at  his  conceited 
ways,  and  admired  his  ability  and  cleverness  in  doing  things 
which  were  beyond  them. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  tells  of  a  picture  of  his  three  sisters,  which  he 


THE    BLACK    BULL,    HAWORTH 


BRANWELL'S   PAINTING  115 

painted.  The  original  has  disappeared,  though  fortunately 
a  photograph  on  glass  was  taken  by  a  Ha  worth  photographer. 
Mrs.  Gaskell  says — 

"  They  all  thought  there  could  be  no  doubt  about  Bran  well's 
talent  for  drawing.  I  have  seen  an  oil  painting  of  his,  done 
I  know  not  when,  but  probably  about  this  time.  It  was  a 
group  of  his  sisters,  life  size,  three-quarters  length  ;  not  much 
better  than  sign-painting,  as  to  manipulation  ;  but  the  like- 
nesses were,  I  should  think,  admirable.  I  could  only  judge 
of  the  fidelity  with  which  the  other  two  were  depicted,  from 
the  striking  resemblance  which  Charlotte,  upholding  the  great 
frame  of  canvas,  and  consequently  standing  right  behind  it, 
bore  to  her  own  representation,  though  it  must  have  been  ten 
years  and  more  since  the  portraits  were  taken.  The  picture 
was  divided,  almost  in  the  middle,  by  a  great  pillar.  On  the 
side  of  the  column  which  was  lighted  by  the  sun,  stood  Char- 
lotte, in  the  womanly  diess  of  that  day  of  gigot  sleeves  and 
large  collars.  On  the  deeply  shadowed  side  was  Emily,  with 
Anne's  gentle  face  resting  on  her  shoulder.  Emily's  counte- 
nance struck  me  as  full  of  power  ;  Charlotte's  of  solicitude  ; 
Anne's  of  tenderness.  The  two  younger  seemed  hardly  to  have 
attained  their  full  growth,  though  Emily  was  taller  than 
Charlotte  ;  they  had  cropped  hair,  and  a  more  girlish  dress. 
I  remember  looking  on  those  two  sad,  earnest,  shadowed  faces, 
and  wondering  whether  I  could  trace  the  mysterious  expression 
which  is  said  to  foretell  an  early  death.  I  had  some  fond 
superstitious  hope  that  the  column  divided  their  fates  from 
hers,  who  stood  apart  in  the  canvas,  as  in  life  she  survived. 
I  liked  to  see  that  the  bright  side  of  the  pillar  was  towards  her 
— that  the  light  in  the  picture  fell  on  her  :  I  might  more  truly 
have  sought  in  her  presentment — nay,  ia  her  living  face — for 
the  sign  of  death  in  her  prime.  They  were  good  likenesses, 
however  badly  executed.  From  thence  I  should  guess  his 
family  argued  truly  that,  if  Bran  well  had  but  the  opportunity, 
and,  alas  !  had  but  the  moral  qualities,  he  might  turn  out  a 
great  painter." 

Mr.  Nicholls  took  the  original  to  Ireland  with  him,  but  not 
liking  the  portrait  of  his  wife  and  her  sister  Anne   he  cut  out 


116      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Emily's  portrait,  which  he  considered  a  good  likeness,  and 
gave  it  to  Martha  Brown,  who  was  then  his  servant  in  Ireland. 
Sir  William  Robertson  Nicoll,  in  the  British  Weekly  of  29th 
Oct.,  1908,  tells  of  seeing  this  painting  on  his  first  visit  to 
Haworth,  in  the  possession  of  Martha  Brown,  but  he  could  not 
then  afford  to  buy  it.  The  Browns  afterwards  were  not 
able  to  say  what  became  of  it,  nor  could  they  say  what  Mr. 
Nicholls  did  with  the  remainder,  but  they  think  he  destroyed 
it.  The  people  in  Haworth  who  knew  the  Brontes  said  that 
the  picture  was  a  very  good  likeness  of  the  three  sisters,  and 
Emily's  was  especially  true.  About  the  time  when  Bran  well 
painted  the  picture,  Charlotte  described  herself  as  getting  very 
fat,  which  is  borne  out  by  the  painting. 

When  it  was  decided  that  Branwell  should  go  to  the  Royal 
Academy,  Charlotte  felt  that  she  ought  to  do  something  to 
increase  the  family  income.  Several  appointments  were 
offered  to  her,  amongst  them  one  from  her  old  schoolmistress, 
Miss  Wooler,  which  she  was  glad  to  accept.  It  was  decided 
that  Emily,  who  had  not  attended  a  school  since  she  was  at 
Cowan  Bridge,  should  go  with  Charlotte  in  order  to  improve 
her  education. 

Charlotte  Bronte  returned  to  Roe  Head  as  governess  in 
July,  1835,  and  remained  there  until  May,  1838. 

Writing  to  Miss  Nussey  on  6th  July,  1835,  Charlotte  Bronte 
acquaints  her  with  the  various  plans  which  have  been  formed 
at  the  Haworth  Vicarage — 

"  Emily  is  going  to  school,  Branwell  is  going  to  London,  and 
I  am  going  to  be  a  governess.  This  last  determination  I 
formed  myself,  knowing  that  I  should  have  to  take  the  step 
some  time  '  and  better  sune  as  syne,'  to  use  the  Scotch  proverb  ; 
and  knowing  well  that  papa  would  have  enough  to  do  with 
his  limited  income,  should  Branwell  be  placed  at  the  Royal 
Academy,  and  Emily  at  Roe  Head.  'Where  am  I  going  to 
reside  ?  '  you  will  ask.  Within  four  miles  of  you,  at  a  place 
neither  of  us  is  unacquainted  with,  being  no  other  than  the 
identical  Roe  Head  mentioned  above.  Yes  !  I  am  going  to 
teach  in  the  very  school  where  I  was  myself  taught." 

Her  experience  as  governess  at  Roe  Head  made  it  quite 


ANNE,    EMILY   AND    CHARLOTTE    BRONTE 

From  an  oil-painting  by  Branwell  Bronte,  circa,  1840 


CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  AS  A  TEACHER          117 

plain  that  she  had  very  little  aptitude  for  teaching  ;  she 
lacked  the  primary  essential — love  for  young  children,  "  horrid 
children,"  as  she  called  them. 

But  neither  she  nor  her  sisters  were  naturally  fond  of 
children.  This  opinion  is  quite  borne  out  by  Charlotte 
Bronte's  old  pupils,  who  were  not  much  impressed  by  her 
teaching  ability.  Those  who  remembered  her  thought  of  her 
as  a  small,  prim,  and  strict  teacher,  always  neat  in  appearance, 
and  reserved  in  manner.  Her  failure  to  impress  her  per- 
sonality on  her  pupils  was  probably  owing  to  the  fact  that 
she  hated  teaching.  "  Teach,  teach,  teach,"  she  wrote  to 
Ellen  Nussey.  Had  she  loved  children,  she  would  have  been 
delighted  to  teach  them,  instead  of  looking  upon  teaching 
solely  as  a  means  of  earning  a  livelihood,  though  it  is  not  merely 
an  ignorant  governess  protesting  against  teaching,  but  injured 
genius  rebelling  against  uncongenial  work. 

Miss  Taylor  says  in  one  of  her  letters  at  this  time — 

"  She  seemed  to  have  no  interest  or  pleasure  beyond  the 
feeling  of  duty." 

Charlotte  Bronte  worked  hard  as  a  teacher,  but  it  was  an 
uncongenial  task,  and  she  wore  herself  out.  To  add  to  her 
anxiety,  Emily  pined  for  the  moors,  trying  hard  to  overcome 
her  home  sickness  by  extra  exertion  in  school,  which  Charlotte 
brought  to  the  notice  of  her  father,  requesting  that  he  should 
send  for  Emily. 

Charlotte  paid  week-end  visits  to  the  Red  House  at  Gomersal, 
where  the  Taylors  lived,  and  also  to  Helen  Nussey 's  home  at 
Brookroyd,  to  which  place  she  had  removed.  It  is  not  men- 
tioned that  Emily  visited  either  of  these  homes,  and  no  one 
at  Roe  Head  appears  to  have  recollected  much  of  her  except 
that  she  was  reserved  and  did  not  make  friends  with  any 
of  them  :  "  She  kept  herself  to  herself,  and  had  little  to  say 
to  anybody." 

Without  making  any  impression  on  Miss  Wooler's  little  happy 
school,  Emily  Bronte  returned  home,  and  so  ended  her  school 
days  as  a  pupil  until  she  was  a  woman  of  twenty-four,  when 
she  went  to  Brussels. 

After  Emily's  departure,  Charlotte  Bronte,  though  happy 


118       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

in  the  evenings  with  Miss  Wooler,  drifted  into  a  state  of  nervous 
depression,  and  to  add  to  her  troubles,  Anne,  her  younger 
sister  who  had  come  to  take  Emily's  place  at  the  school  was 
taken  ill  too  ;  this  was  the  only  school  education  which  Anne 
ever  received.  During  Anne's  illness  Charlotte  Bronte*  felt 
her  responsibility  very  keenly,  and  even  upbraided  Miss 
Wooler  for  her  supposed  indifference  to  Anne's  health.  This 
was  an  example  of  that  occasional  ill-temper  which  clung  to 
Charlotte  throughout  life,  and  was  caused,  most  probably, 
by  her  overwrought  nerves — 

"  I  have  some  qualities  that  make  me  very  miserable,  some 
feelings  that  you  can  have  no  participation  in — that  few,  very 
few,  people  in  the  world  can  at  all  understand.  I  don't  pride 
myself  on  these  peculiarities.  I  strive  to  conceal  and  suppress 
them  as  much  as  I  can  ;  bat  they  burst  out  sometimes,  and 
then  those  who  see  the  explosion  despise  me,  and  I  hate  myself 
for  days  afterwards." 

These  attacks  of  nervous  depression,  from  which  Charlotte 
Bronte  suffered  when  exhausted  with  anxiety,  show  how  readily 
her  mind  would  store  up  a  grudge,  especially  if  she  had  been 
thwarted  ;  this  partly  accounts  for  her  hot  denunciation  of 
Cowan  Bridge  School  and  the  Pensionnat  Heger.  Writing 
to  Ellen  Nussey,  she  says — 

"  You  have  been  very  kiad  to  me  of  late,  and  nave  spared 
me  all  those  little  sallies  of  ridicule,  which,  owing  to  my  miser- 
able and  wretched  touchiness  of  character,  used  formerly  to 
make  me  wince,  as  if  I  had  been  touched  with  a  hot  iron  ; 
things  that  nobody  else  cares  for  enter  into  my  mind  and 
rankle  there  like  venom.  I  know  these  feelings  are  absurd,  and 
therefore  I  try  to  hide  them,  but  they  only  sting  the  deeper  for 
concealment." 

It  was  about  Christmas  time  of  1836  that  Miss  Wooler 
transferred  her  school  from  the  fine,  open  and  breezy  Roe 
Head,  to  Heald  House,  Dewsbury  Moor — a  much  less  bracing 
situation,  which  was  sure  to  be  less  healthy  to  anyone  accus- 
tomed, as  the  Brontes  were,  to  the  moors  at  Ha  worth ;  Charlotte 
very  much  regretted  the  change,  especially  for  the  sake  of  her 
sister  Anne. 


CHARLOTTE   BRONTE  AND   SOUTHEY         119 

As  a  consequence  of  the  sharp  quarrel,  Miss  Wooler  wrote 
to  Mr.  Bronte,  who,  evidently  believing  in  Charlotte's  version, 
and  no  doubt  remembering  the  death  of  Maria  and  Elizabeth, 
sent  for  both  Anne  and  Charlotte  the  next  day.  Miss  Wooler 
sought  to  be  reconciled  to  her  passionate  young  governess,  and 
they  became  friends  again,  the  consequence  being  that  Charlotte 
returned  to  the  school  after  the  holidays.  She  did  not,  how- 
ever, remain  longer  than  May,  1838,  as  the  doctor  advised 
her  to  return  to  Ha  worth  owing  to  an  attack  of  hypochondria. 
After  a  quiet  rest,  her  father  invited  Mary  and  Martha  Taylor 
to  spend  a  few  days  at  the  parsonage.  He  was  anxious  to 
remove  the  depression  from  which  Charlotte  suffered,  and  the 
visit  of  these  two  friends  acted  like  a  charm. 

Charlotte  at  this  time  was  influenced  by  a  letter  from 
Southey,  to  whom  she  had  sent  some  of  her  poems  ;  she 
took  his  reply  quite  seriously.  Teaching  was  just  as  dis- 
tasteful as  writing  was  congenial  to  her  ;  the  fact  that  she 
had  to  follow  the  uninteresting  life  of  a  governess  was  cal- 
culated to  bring  about  periods  of  depression.  It  is  evident 
that  this  letter  to  Southey  was  somewhat  flippant,  judging 
by  his  reply.  She,  however,  wrote  to  thank  him  for  the  advice 
he  gave  her,  which  led  to  a  second  letter  from  Southey,  which 
suggests  that  he  had  a  better  opinion  of  Charlotte  Bronte 
after  her  second  letter  to  him. 

Referring  to  Charlotte's  first  letter,  which  has  never  been 
forthcoming,  Southey  wrote  to  Caroline  Bowles — 

"  I  sent  a  dose  of  cooling  admonition  to  the  poor  girl  whose 
flighty  letter  reached  me  at  Buckland.  It  seems  she  is  the 
eldest  daughter  of  a  clergyman,  has  been  expensively  educated, 
and  is  laudably  employed  as  governess  in  some  private  family. 
About  the  same  time  that  she  wrote  to  me  her  brother  wrote 
to  Wordsworth,  who  was  disgusted  with  the  letter,  for  it 
contained  gross  flattery  and  plenty  of  abuse  of  other  poets, 
including  me.  I  think  well  of  the  sister  from  her  second  letter, 
and  probably  she  will  think  kindly  of  me  as  long  as  she  lives." 

ROBERT  SOUTHEY  (1837).1 

Mrs.  Gaskell   has  given  Charlotte's  second  letter  and  also 

1  Correspondence  of  Robert  Southey  with  Caroline  Bowles. 


120       IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

Southey's  two  letters  in  reply.  Charlotte  says  in  her  second 
letter  to  Southey  :  "I  trust  I  shall  never  more  feel  ambitious 
to  see  my  name  in  print ;  if  the  wish  should  rise  I'll  look  at 
Southey's  letter  and  suppress  it."  For  some  time,  literary  work 
was  laid  aside,  and  she  tried  to  give  her  mind  to  other  duties. 
It  was  during  the  Christmas  holidays  of  1837  that  Tabby,  the 
old  servant,  met  with  an  accident  and  broke  her  leg.  All  the 
sisters  had  to  take  their  share  in  nursing  her  and  doing  her  work, 
which  interfered  with  their  Christmas  festivities.  Miss 
Branwell  was  very  anxious  that  Tabby  should  be  sent  to  her 
relatives,  and  she  persuaded  Mr.  Bronte  that  this  would  be 
the  best  plan,  but  the  Bronte  girls  adopted  the  "  hunger  strike  " 
until  they  were  allowed  to  have  their  own  way.  Miss  Branwell 
and  her  nieces  did  not  always  take  the  same  view,  as  the 
sexton's  family,  living  close  by,  knew  quite  well. 

Charlotte  Bronte  remained  at  Haworth  about  a  year  after 
leaving  Miss  Wooler's  school  at  Dewsbury  Moor.  In  The 
Professor  she  introduces  an  account  of  the  illness  of  William 
Crimsworth,  the  original  of  whom  was  the  novelist  herself — 

"  I  was  temporarily  a  prey  to  hypochondria.  She  had 
been  my  acquaintance,  nay,  my  guest,  once  before  in  boyhood  ; 
I  had  entertained  her  at  bed  and  board  for  a  year  ;  for  that 
space  of  time  I  had  her  to  myself  in  secret ;  she  lay  with  me, 
she  ate  with  me,  she  walked  out  with  me,  showing  me  nooks 
in  woods,  hollows  in  hills,  where  we  could  sit  together,  and 
where  she  could  drop  her  drear  veil  over  me,  and  so  hide  sky 
and  sun,  grass  and  green  tree  ;  taking  me  entirely  to  her 
death-cold  bosom  and  holding  me  with  arms  of  bone.  What 
tales  she  would  tell  me  at  such  hours  !  What  songs  she  would 
recite  in  my  ears  !  How  she  would  discourse  to  me  of  her 
own  country — the  grave — and  again  and  again  promise  to 
conduct  me  there  ere  long  ;  and  drawing  me  to  the  very  brink 
of  a  black,  sullen  river,  show  me  on  the  other  side  shores 
unequal  with  mound,  monument,  and  tablet,  standing  up  in 
a  glimmer  more  hoary  than  moonlight.  "  Necropolis  ! '  she 
would  whisper,  pointing  to  the  pale  piles,  and  add, '  It  contains 
a  mansioa  prepared  for  you.'  " 


CHARLOTTE   BRONTE'S   ILLNESS  121 

Writing  to  Branwell  from  Brussels,  six  years  later,  Charlotte 
says — 

"  It  is  a  curious,  metaphysical  fact  that  always  in  the 
evening  ...  I  always  recur  as  fanatically  as  ever  to  the  old 
ideas,  the  old  faces,  and  the  old  scenes  in  the  world  below." 


CHAPTER   X 

EMILY   BRONTE   AT   LAW   HILL,   SOUTHOWRAM 

1836-1839 

EMILY  BRONT£  appointed  governess  at  Law  Hill  School — Lack  ol 
training  for  her  duties — Her  account  of  school  life — Her 
Character — The  Misses  Patchett — Law  Hill  School  and  neighbour- 
hood— Poems  composed  whilst  at  the  school — Material  and 
inspiration  gained  by  Emily's  association  with  the  school. 

EMILY  seems  to  have  soon  revived  after  reaching  home  from 
Roe  Head,  and  she  kept  up  her  studies,  partly  with  her  father, 
but  working  more  frequently  alone,  whilst  Charlotte  and  Anne 
continued  at  Roe  Head  School. 

After  remaining  at  home  about  fifteen  months,  Emily,  now 
aged  eighteen,  obtained  an  appointment  as  a  governess, 
probably  urged  on  like  Charlotte,  and  later  like  Anne,  by  the 
feeling  that  she  ought  to  earn  something  to  enable  Branwell 
to  be  sent  to  the  Royal  Academy.  She  was  successful  in 
obtaining  a  situation  at  the  school  kept  by  a  Miss  Elizabeth 
Patchett,  at  Law  Hill,  Southowram,  some  three  or  four  miles 
from  Halifax.  Her  experience  for  this  position  was  somewhat 
limited.  As  a  teacher  she  had  received  no  training  whatever, 
and  it  is  not  surprising,  therefore,  that  she  had  a  hard  time 
at  the  beginning  of  her  career  at  Law  Hill,  for  she  was  incapable 
of  submitting  to  regular  routine  ;  she  loved  to  do  things  in 
her  own  way,  and  preferred  to  choose  her  own  time  :  "  I'll 
walk  where  my  own  nature  would  be  leading  ;  it  vexes  me 
to  choose  another  guide,"  she  says  in  one  of  her  poems. 

Charlotte  Bronte  wrote  to  Ellen  Nussey  from  Roe  Head 
School  on  2nd  October,  1836— 

"  My  sister  Emily  is  gone  into  a  situation  as  teacher  in  a  large 
school  of  near  forty  pupils,  near  Halifax.  I  have  had  one  letter 
from  her  since  her  departure  ;  it  gives  an  appalling  account 
of  her  duties — hard  labour  from  six  in  the  morning  until  near 
eleven  at  night,  with  only  one  half -hour  of  exercise  between. 
This  is  slavery.  I  fear  she  will  never  stand  it.'" 

This  is  all  the  actual  information  which  has  been  handed 
down  by  the  Brontes  concerning  Emily's  stay  at  Law  Hill. 

122 


EMILY   BRONTE  AT  LAW   HILL  123 

According  to  Mrs.  Gaskell,  Charlotte  wrote  this  letter  to  Ellen 
Nussey  on  6th  Oct.,  1836. 

In  the  privately  printed  volume  of  Charlotte's  letters,  which 
were  compiled  by  Mr.  Horsfall  Turner  for  Ellen  Nussey,  the 
letter  is  also  dated  6th  Oct.,  1836,  and  in  the  first  Bronte 
Museum  exhibition  Mr.  Horsfall  Turner  exhibited  a  letter  of 
Charlotte's  of  that  date,  but  in  the  Life  and  Letters,  by  Mr. 
Shorter,  the  letter  is  dated  2nd  April,  1837,  and  is  headed 
Dewsbury  Moor,  but  there  must  be  some  mistake,  for  Miss 
Wooler  was  at  Roe  Head  when  Charlotte  wrote  to  Ellen  Nussey 
telling  her  of  Emily  having  gone  to  a  situation  at  Law  Hill. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  says  :  "  Emily  had  given  up  her  situation 
in  the  Halifax  District  School  at  the  expiration  of  six  months 
of  arduous  trial." l  This  would  imply  that  Emily  left  Law  Hill 
in  the  Spring  of  1837.  But,  in  a  statement  following  a  letter 
dated  March,  1839,  referring  to  Henry  Nussey's  proposal  of 
marriage  to  Charlotte  Bronte,  Mrs.  Gaskell  says  :  "  Emily, 
who  suffered  and  drooped  more  than  her  sisters  when  away 
from  home,  was  the  one  appointed  to  remain.  Anne  was  the 
first  to  meet  with  a  situation."  Anne  accepted  this  appoint- 
ment in  April,  1839,  according  to  Charlotte  Bronte's  letter, 
which  Mrs.  Gaskell  quotes.  This  would  show  that  Emily 
Bronte  stayed  at  Law  Hill  for  two  and  a  half  years. 

Again,  Anne  Bronte,  writing  in  her  journal  on  30th  July, 
1841,  says  :  "  Four  years  ago  I  was  at  school  .  .  .  Emily 
has  been  a  teacher  at  Miss  Patchett's  and  left  it."  As  the 
second  little  journal  was  written  exactly  four  years  later, 
the  one  for  1841  points  to  the  fact  that  the  four  years 
mentioned  cover  July,  1837,  to  July,  1841,  showing  that 
Emily  was  at  Law  Hill  later  than  the  Spring  of  1837.  In 
support  of  this  evidence,  Mrs.  Watkinson  of  Huddersfield,  who 
first  went  as  a  pupil  to  Law  Hill  in  Oct.,  1838,  has  kindly 
allowed  me  to  see  letters  of  hers  written  at  that  time  from 
Law  Hill,  and  she  is  absolutely  certain  that  Emily  Bronte 
was  a  teacher  during  the  winter,  1838-39  ;  she  remembers 

1  The  only  authority  for  this  statement  appears  to  be  a  letter  from 
Ellen  Nussey  to  Mrs.  Gaskell,  dated  Oct.  22,  1856.  (The  Brontes  :  Life 
and  Letters,  by  Clement  K.  Shorter.) 


124       IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

her  quite  well,  and  the  one  thing  that  impressed  her  most 
about  Emily  Bronte  was  her  devotion  to  the  house-dog,  which 
she  once  told  her  little  pupils  was  dearer  to  her  than  they  were. 

It  is  unfortunate  that  all  Emily's  letters  to  her  sisters  have 
been  destroyed  by  Charlotte  Bronte.  The  letter  to  Ellen 
Nussey  complaining  of  Emily's  hardships  is  but  another 
chapter  in  an  old  story.  All  the  employers  of  the  Brontes 
were  slave-drivers,  according  to  Charlotte,  whereas  whatever 
fault  existed  could  be  attributed  largely  to  the  temperament 
of  the  eccentric  and  reserved  daughters  of  the  moor.  They  had 
no  aptitude  for  teaching,  for  the  chains  of  their  genius  were 
dragging  at  them  all  the  time. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  has  tried  to  prove  that  the  employers  of  the 
Brontes  were  all  unkind  and  even  cruel.  Those  who  knew 
Miss  Elizabeth  Patchett,  of  Law  Hill  School,  have  spoken 
very  highly  of  her,  and  she  was  greatly  respected  and  loved  by 
her  pupils.  This  is  fully  borne  out  by  letters  seen  by  the  writer, 
all  of  which  go  to  prove  that  she  was  a  kind  schoolmistress. 
This  girls'  school  was  conducted  by  two  sisters,  Miss  Elizabeth 
and  Miss  Maria  Patchett.  Miss  Maria  Patchett  was  married 
before  Emily  Bronte  went  to  Southowram,  and  Miss  Elizabeth 
married  the  Rev.  John  Hope,  Vicar  of  Southowram,  shortly 
after  Emily  Bronte  left  in  1839. 

From  the  testimony  of  several  old  pupils,  Emily  Bronte  was 
not  unpopular  at  Law  Hill,  though  she  could  not  easily  associate 
with  others,  and  her  work  was  hard  because  she  had  not  the 
faculty  of  doing  it  quickly.  Unlike  Charlotte,  she  was  not 
good  at  needlework,  and  like  her  elder  sister  Maria,  though 
clever  in  her  own  unique  way,  she  was  untidy,  and  fond  of 
day-dreaming.  The  school  was  built  away  from  the  farm, 
across  the  yard  ;  it  was  a  long  narrow  building,  divided  into 
class-rooms,  and  the  pupils  slept  in  the  bedrooms  overhead, 
and  not  at  the  farm. 

Miss  Elizabeth  Patchett,  according  to  one  of  her  pupils 
still  living,  was  a  very  beautiful  woman,  wearing  her  hair 
in  curls.  She  was  fond  of  teaching,  and  after  her  marriage 
to  Mr.  Hope  she  lived  in  the  Vicarage,  and  took  a  great  interest 
in  the  old  home.  Her  husband  died  in  1843,  and  when 


SOUTHOWRAM  125 

visiting  his  grave  in  the  old  churchyard  she  never  failed  to 
call  at  her  old  home.  Her  relatives  naturally  were  not  pleased 
that  Charlotte  Bronte's  letter  to  Miss  Nussey  should  have 
been  published  by  Mrs.  Gaskell.  Like  Cowan  Bridge,  Law 
Hill  School  was  ever  afterwards  marked  as  an  institution 
which  was  conducted  with  lack  of  consideration,  simply 
because  one  of  the  Brontes  was  unable  to  carry  out  the  ordinary 
duties  assigned  to  her.  The  consequence  was  that  the  friends 
and  relatives  of  the  Patchetts  refrained  from  discussing  Emily 
Bronte  for  many  years.  They  quite  ignored  the  Bronte  connec- 
tion with  the  school,  being  satisfied  that  their  reputation  should 
rest  with  other  pupils  and  teachers  who  had  passed  through  it. 

The  quaint  village  of  Southowram,  near  Halifax,  stands  at 
the  top  of  a  very  steep  and  long  hill,  higher  than  Haworth, 
and  the  approach  to  it  to-day  is  by  a  steep  and  irregular  road, 
which  affords  a  hard  climb  to  the  pedestrian ;  but  in 
Emily  Bronte's  time  there  was  no  real  road,  except  a  rugged 
moorland  path,  leading  up  Beacon  Hill.  From  the  village  a 
magnificent  view  of  hills  on  every  side  can  be  seen,  stretching 
as  far  as  Oxenhope  Moors  on  one  side  and  the  Kirklees  Estate 
on  the  other,  whilst  the  winding  Calder  valley  lies  between, 
with  its  river  and  canal. 

Law  Hill  is  a  gentleman  farmer's  house  ;  it  is  a  square 
three-storied  building,  with  a  pleasant  view  looking  in  the 
direction  of  the  little  church  known  as  St.  Anne's-in-the-Grove. 
A  still  older  church,  now  used  as  a  stable,  was  known  as  St. 
Anne's-in-the-Brier.  From  the  windows  of  Law  Hill  there 
are  fine  views  over  the  Calder  valley  to  the  heights  around. 
On  the  lawn  are  large  trees,  which  in  summer  hide  the  greater 
part  of  the  front  of  the  house.  It  was  whilst  at  Law  Hill 
that  Emily  wrote — 

"  The  night  is  darkening  round  me, 

The  wild  winds  coldly  blow ; 
But  a  tyrant  spell  has  bound  me,  < 

And  I  cannot,  cannot  go. 

The  giant  trees  are  bending 

Their  bare  boughs  weighed  with  snow, 

And  the  storm  is  fast  descending, 
And  yet  I  cannot  go. 


126      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Clouds  beyond  clouds  above  me, 

Wastes  beyond  wastes  below ; 
But  nothing  dread  can  move  me, 

I  will  not,  cannot  go/'1 

This  poem  is  dated  November,  1837,  The  uncultivated 
land  around  Law  Hill  was  mostly  "  waste  beyond  waste  "  in 
1837 ;  now  it  is  cultivated.  When  the  writer  last  visited 
Law  Hill,  it  was  occupied  by  two  brothers,  who  lived  alone, 
no  woman  having  dwelt  in  the  house  for  years.  The  front 
gate  being  locked  and  barred,  access  was  gained  through  a 
wide,  open  gateway  close  to  the  schoolroom,  with  stone  pillars 
on  either  side  of  the  path  admitting  to  the  back  door.  On 
knocking  at  the  door  the  angry  barking  of  dogs  greets  one, 
reminding  the  visitor  of  Lockwood's  approach  to  Wuthering 
Heights,  for  this  old  house  at  Southowram  has  been  credited 
with  being  the  original  of  Wuthering  Heights,  and  it  is  certain 
that  Emily  had  it  in  mind  when  writing  her  masterpiece,  for, 
as  on  Ha  worth  moors,  many  weird  tales  are  associated  with  this 
district.  She  seems  to  have  taken  Law  Hill  as  the  original 
for  Wuthering  Heights,  and  placed  it  on  Haworth  Moor. 

The  schoolroom  across  the  farmyard,  in  which  Emily  Bronte 
dragged  out  her  uncongenial  duties,  has  been  considerably 
altered,  and  it  is  now  converted  into  three  small  cottages. 
The  present  owner  remembers  the  last  visit  paid  by  Mrs.  Hope 
(Miss  Patchett),  the  former  schoolmi stress.  She  was  then  a 
very  old  lady,  but  still  beautiful  with  her  grey  curls,  and,  though 
over  eighty  years  of  age,  "  could  riip  about  from  room  to  room 
quite  gaily,"  as  he  expressed  it.  From  the  description  of 
Miss  Patchett,  which  has  been  given  by  those  who  knew  her, 
it  is  evident  that  she  was  of  a  decided  and  practical  turn  of 
mind,  and  a  person  who  knew  how  to  carry  out  her  duties 
as  a  schoolmistress.  Her  school,  in  consequence,  had  an 
excellent  reputation.  In  Emily  Bronte's  time  there  was  a 
farm  attached  to  it,  which  practically  supplied  most  of  the 
produce  that  was  required  by  the  pupils,  teachers  and  servants. 
It  is  possible  that  the  original  of  "  Joseph  "  in  Wuthering 
Heights  may  have  been  connected  with  the  farm,  and  it  is 

1  Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte,  by  Clement  K.  Shorter. 


MISS   PATCHETT  127 

probable  that  Emily  Bronte  quite  unconsciously  got  material 
from  this  place  when  writing  her  famous  novel.  The  road 
leading  to  these  heights  is  known  as  Beacon  Hill  Road,  and 
Law  Hill  can  be  seen  from  a  long  distance.  A  tramway  now 
scales  the  Beacon  Hill,  but  so  steep  was  it  near  the  top  that  a 
large  slice  of  land  was  practically  cut  off  to  level  it  when  the 
new  road  was  made. 

The  girls  at  the  school  were  taught  all  the  usual  accom- 
plishments, and  horse-riding  in  addition  :  Miss  Patchett  is 
said  to  have  been  a  very  skilful  horsewoman.  There  is  an 
old  stone  horsemount  in  the  farmyard,  near  to  the  side  entrance, 
leading  to  the  front  lawn.  Emily  Bronte  pictures  the  elder 
Catherine  in  Wuthering  Heights  as  a  fearless  rider.  The  white 
painted  stoops  on  the  moor  between  Haworth  and  Halifax  are 
mentioned  in  Wuthering  Heights,  as  are  also  the  horse  steps. 

Emily  Bronte  would  be  sure  to  notice  these  upright  stones 
which  are  still  to  be  seen,  when  driving  to  and  from  Southowram. 
The  fields  and  meadows  around  Law  Hill  were  part  of  the  farm, 
and  Emily  Bronte  must  have  had  them  in  mind  when  she 
portrayed  Joseph  looking  for  Heathcliff  in  Chapter  IX 
of  Wuthering  Heights.  There  is  mention  of  the  moors,  the  hay- 
loft, the  gate  on  the  full  swing,  Miss's  pony,  and  the  meadow — 
all  to  be  found  near  Law  Hill,  for  the  fields  near  the  farm  were 
cultivated,  and  the  wastes  stretched  beyond.  The  Withens, 
by  many  claimed  as  the  original  of  Wuthering  Heights,  on 
Haworth  Moor,  does  not  answer  so  well  to  this  description, 
and  the  house  seems  smaller  than  Wuthering  Heights  r,,s 
described  by  Emily  Bronte.  The  tracts  of  waste  land  beyond 
the  parsonage  at  Haworth  and  at  Southowram  have  both  been 
utilised  in  Wuthering  Heights  :  both  are  lonely  and  desolate  : 
here  and  there  are  the  old  farms,  in  which  the  rough  and 
uncouth  people  lived,  seldom  associating  with  each  other  or 
with  other  people.  When  Charlotte  said  Emily  had  no 
more  practical  knowledge  of  the  people  among  whom  she  lived 
than  a  nun  has  of  those  who  passed  her  convent  gates,  she 
forgot  that  Emily  had  seen  something  of  the  life  of  the  farmer 
and  his  servants  during  her  two  and  a  half  years  at  Law 
Hill. 


128       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Emily  Bronte,  like  Charlotte  when  at  Roe  Head  and  Dews- 
bury  Moor,  does  not  appear  to  have  made  much  impression 
on  her  pupils ;  she  was  simply  one  of  the  governesses — 
nothing  more.  She  had  charge  of  the  younger  children,  and 
they  soon  forgot  the  time  she  spent  with  them,  though  there 
is  no  record  that  she  was  ever  unkind ;  on  the  contrary  she  was 
liked  by  some  of  her  pupils.  The  girls  were  all  boarders  from 
Halifax  and  other  towns  in  the  neighbourhood,  and  the  elevated 
position  of  the  school  counted  in  its  favour.  It  was  certainly 
a  healthy  spot  for  strong  girls,  but  the  Brontes  were  far  from 
strong,  and  the  taint  of  "  consumption  "  predisposed  them  to 
illness,  whilst  other  girls  would  be  likely  to  flourish  in  such 
a  bracing  climate,  but  as  Emily  appears  to  have  stayed  at 
Law  Hill  from  October,  1836,  to  the  Spring  of  1839,  it  seems 
as  if  the  place  agreed  with  her. 

When  Emily  Bronte  walked  around  Southowram,  she  would 
often  be  with  the  pupils  or  with  Miss  Patchett,  and  not  alone 
as  she  would  wish.  As  the  Patchetts  were  a  very  old  Halifax 
family,  it  is  possible  that  Emily  Bronte  would  learn  much  of 
the  district  from  Miss  Patchett,  who  at  the  time  was  a  handsome 
woman  of  forty-four,  just  as  Charlotte  did  from  Miss  Wooler 
at  Roe  Head  ;  for  the  daily  walks  with  the  Head  Mistress  were 
a  much  prized  recreation,  a  former  pupil  told  me. 

Unlike  Cowan  Bridge  School,  the  church  was  not  far  away, 
and  Emily  Bronte  was  able  to  take  her  walks  to  the  church 
and  the  moors  with  her  pupils  without  any  great  inconvenience, 
even  in  bad  weather.  There  was  a  choice  of  walks,  one  leading 
down  the  valley  to  Brighouse,  whilst  beyond  is  Hartshead- 
cum-Clifton,  and  further  on  is  Roe  Head  and  Kirklees.  The 
long  steep  road  to  Halifax  and  back  was  nearly  eight  miles  and 
obviously  too  severe  a  strain  for  the  young  scholars,  but  one  of 
the  pupils,  who  was  at  the  school  when  Emily  Bronte  was  there, 
allowed  me  to  see  a  letter  in  which  she  mentions  that  Miss 
Patchett  took  some  of  the  girls  to  Halifax  to  see  the  Museum 
occasionally,  and  the  stuffed  birds  and  animals  are  mentioned 
in  the  letter  as  being  of  great  interest ;  doubtless  Emily  Bronte 
enjoyed  the  Museum.  She  never  refers  to  her  school  days  in 


POEMS  COMPOSED   AT  LAW   HILL  129 

her  novel,  but  she  mentions  her  surroundings  again  and  again, 
both  in  her  novel  and  in  her  poems. 

In  spite  of  Emily's  hard  treatment,  of  which  Charlotte 
Bronte  complained,  she  wrote  a  number  of  poems  during  the 
period  of  1836-1839  whilst  at  Law  Hill,  and  the  poem  on 
"  Home,"  beginning  "  A  little  while,  a  little  while,"  was 
written  there,  in  my  opinion — 

"  A  little  while,  a  little  while, 

The  weary  task  is  put  away, 

And  I  can  sing  and  I  can  smile, 

Alike,  while  I  have  holiday. 

Where  wilt  thou  go,  my  harassed  heart — 
What  thought,  what  scene  invites  thee  now  ? 

What  spot,  or  near  or  far  apart, 
Has  rest  for  thee,  my  weary  brow? 

Still,  as  I  mused,  the  naked  room, 

The  alien  firelight  died  away ; 
And  from  the  midst  of  cheerless  gloom 

I  passed  to  bright,  unclouded  day. 

The  last  verse  reads — 

Even  as  I  stood  with  raptured  eye, 
Absorbed  in  bliss  so  deep  and  dear, 

My  hour  of  rest  had  fleeted  by, 
And  back  came  labour,  bondage,  care." 

"  Even  as  I  stood  with  raptured  eye "  seems  to  point 
to  the  nearness  of  Emily  Bronte's  home,  which,  as  the  crow 
flies,  was  only  a  short  distance  away. 

It  is  not  possible  to  agree  with  Mrs.  Humphry  Ward,  or  Miss 
May  Sinclair,  that  the  poem  was  composed  at  Roe  Head,  even 
though  Charlotte  Bronte  attributes  it  to  that  period.  Charlotte 
says  Emily  was  only  sixteen  when  she  wrote  the  poem  ;  as  a 
matter  of  fact  Emily  was  seventeen  on  the  very  day  after  she 
arrived  at  Miss  Wooler's  school.  Charlotte  never  seems  to  have 
heard  much  from  Emily  about  Law  Hill.  Sir  William  Robertson 
Nicoll  and  Miss  Robinson  consider  it  to  have  been  written  when 
Emily  Bronte  was  at  Brussels,  because  Miss  Robinson  saw 
a  copy  of  Emily  Bronte's  poems  with  dates ;  but  this  poem 

9— (2200) 


130       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTfiS 

may  have  been  kept  undated,  as  many  others  were  ;  if  it 
had  been  dated  Charlotte  Bronte  would  have  seen  it,  and  not 
guessed  that  it  was  written  at  Roe  Head.  It  is  much  more 
likely  to  have  been  written  at  Law  Hill,  for  at  Roe  Head  there 
was  little  in  Miss  Wooler's  school  to  lead  her  to  write  about 
"  labour,  bondage,  care,"  nor  was  there  at  Brussels,  as  in  each 
case  Emily  Bronte  was  a  pupil,  and  study  to  her  was  not 
"  labour,  bondage,  care."  Her  evenings  at  Roe  Head  and  at 
Brussels  were  spent  in  her  own  way,  with  her  studies,  whereas  at 
Law  Hill  she  was  said  to  have  been  at  work  until  nearly  eleven 
o'clock  at  night,  possibly  mending  the  pupils'  clothing,  pre- 
paring lessons  for  the  next  day,  marking  exercises,  and  caring 
for  things  belonging  to  her  pupils.  Moreover,  it  would  be  in 
keeping  with  Emily's  character  to  compose  poems  in  her 
solitude,  but  whilst  at  Roe  Head  and  Brussels  she  had  Charlotte's 
company  in  the  evenings,  and  both  she  and  Charlotte  Bronte 
had  gone  to  Brussels  with  the  determination  to  acquire  a 
good  knowledge  of  French  and  German,  and  in  consequence 
there  was  little  time  for  writing  poetry  in  the  evenings.  There 
is  only  one  poem  that  can  be  attributed  to  Brussels,  judging 
by  the  Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte,  recently  published  by 
Mr.  Clement  Shorter.  Emily  was  in  her  nineteenth  year  when 
she  went  to  Law  Hill.  The  "  alien  firelight "  mentioned  in  the 
poem  could  scarcely  refer  to  Miss  Wooler's  kindly  hearth, 
and  at  Brussels  a  stove  was  used,  whereas  at  Law  Hill  the 
firelight  might  well  be  considered  "alien,"  as  Emily  was  a 
stranger  amongst  strangers.  If  the  poem  is  carefully  studied, 
it  is  evident  that  it  is  the  lament  of  a  governess,  whose  "  labour, 
bondage,  care  "  have  well  nigh  overwhelmed  her,  rather  than 
the  moan  of  a  pupil.  Moreover,  the  poem  could  scarcely  have 
been  written  at  Roe  Head,  for  Emily  Bronte's  previous  poems 
of  1835  are  far  from  being  equal  to  the  one  commencing  "  A 
little  while,  a  little  while."  If  Emily  stayed  at  Law  Hill  for 
two  years  and  a  half,  as  seems  very  probable,  she  may  have 
composed  this  poem  at  any  time  in  the  interval  between  her 
eighteenth  birthday  and  within  a  few  months  of  her  twenty- 
first  birthday.  Anne  probably  wrote  her  poem  on  "  Home  " 
when  she  was  about  eighteen.  This  helps  to  confirm 


tHE  GONDAL  CHRONICLES  131 

the  assumption  that  Emily  was  about  twenty  when  she 
wrote  hers,  for  the  sisters  wrote  on  similar  subjects,  as  on 
"  The  Gondals  "  and  "  The  Last  Lines."  Granted  that  Emily 
was  at  the  school  for  two  years  and  a  half,  during  that  period 
she  wrote  no  fewer  than  thirty-nine  poems,  according  to  the 
dates  given  in  the  recent  edition  of  The  Complete  Poems  of 
Emily  Bronte,  published  by  Mr.  Clement  Snorter.  Some 
of  these  poems  evidently  refer  to  her  residence  at  Law  Hill. 
In  addition  to  these  thirty-nine  poems,  there  are  seventeen 
which  Charlotte  published  in  1850,  which  she  called  Selections 
from  the  Literary  Remains  of  Ellis  and  Acton  Bell.  These  were 
issued  with  a  new  edition  of  Wuthering  Heights  and  Agnes  Grey, 
by  Messrs.  Smith,  Elder  &  Co.,  who  took  over  the  publication 
from  Messrs.  Newby,  the  original  publishers.  Charlotte 
Bronte  tells  us  that  the  poems  were  written  at  twilight  in  the 
schoolroom  when  Emily  was  only  sixteen.  Charlotte  Bronte 
makes  several  mistakes  in  her  preface,  which  seems  to  imply 
that  she  and  Emily  were  not  in  each  other's  confidence. 

Referring  to  Roe  Head,  Charlotte  says  of  Emily  :  "  She  only 
had  been  three  months  at  school,  and  it  was  some  years  before 
the  experiment  of  sending  her  from  home  was  again  ventured 
on.  After  the  age  of  twenty,  having  meantime  studied  alone 
with  diligence  and  perseverance,  she  went  with  me  to  an 
establishment  on  the  Continent."  This  was  in  1842. 

This  preface  to  the  "  Selections  "  does  not  touch  on  the 
stay  of  the  two  and  a  half  years  at  Southowram,  but  Charlotte 
Bronte  clearly  implies  that  the  moors  were  the  source  of 
Emily's  inspiration.  The  district  around  Roe  Head  was  not 
moorland,  nor,  of  course,  was  it  at  Brussels.  Southowram 
evidently  helped  to  furnish  Emily  with  material  and  inspiration 
for  her  poems  and  her  one  great  novel. 

Several  of  Emily  Bronte's  poems  prove  the  existence  of 
the  Gondal  Chronicles. 

These  Gondal  Chronicles  are  first  mentioned  in  a  poem 
dated  19th  August,  1834,  when  Emily  was  only  sixteen.  This 
poem  was  written  a  year  before  she  went  to  Roe  Head 
in  July,  1835,  and,  from  Anne's  remarks,  the  Gondals  had 
given  them  interest  and  amusement  for  many  a  long  day. 


132       IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

"  O  Alexander  !  when  I  return, 
Warm  as  these  hearths  thy  heart  would  burn  ; 
Light  as  thine  own  my  step  would  fall, 
If  I  might  hear  thy  voice  in  the  hall. 

But  thou  art  now  on  the  desolate  sea,  , 
Thinking  of  Gondal  and  grieving  for  me ; 
Longing  to  be  in  sweet  Elbe  again, 
Thinking  and  grieving  and  longing  in  vain."1 

If  Emily  Bronte  left  home  in  October,  1836— the  date  given 
by  Charlotte — then  the  first  poem  that  Emily  wrote  at  Law 
Hill  suggests  the  scenery  around  Southowram — 

"  All  down  the  mountain-sides  wild  forests  lending 
The  mighty  voice  to  the  life-giving  wind ; 
Rivers  their  banks  in  the  jubilee  bending, 
Fast  through  the  valleys  a  reckless  course  wending, 
Wilder  and  deeper  their  waters  extending, 
Leaving  a  desolate  desert  behind."1 

The  poem,  consisting  of  four  stanzas,  is  dated  December 
13,  1836,  and  suggests  the  woods  on  the  hill  sides,  which 
slope  down  to  the  winding  river  Calder  in  the  valley  below. 

There  is  another  poem  showing  that  Emily,  like  Charlotte, 
suffered  from  insomnia,  and,  judging  by  the  date,  it  must 
have  been  written  at  Law  Hill. 

The  last  two  verses  read — 

"  Sleep  brings  no  friend  to  me 

To  soothe  and  aid  to  bear  ; 
They  all  gaze  on  how  scornfully, 
And  I  despair. 

Sleep  brings  no  wish  to  fret 

My  harassed  heart  beneath  ; 
My  only  wish  is  to  forget 

In  endless  sleep  of  death."  l 

November,  1837. 

There  are  poems  which  range  in  date  from  December,  1836, 
to  January,  1839,  which  covers  the  time  when  Emily  was  at 
Law  Hill.  The  poem  "To  a  wreath  of  snow  "  written  in 
December,  1837,  which  tells  of  "  my  prison  room,"  could 
scarcely  refer  to  Ha  worth. 

It  was  decided  by  the  family  in  the  Spring  of  1839,  according 
1  Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte,  by  Clement  K.  Shorter. 


EMILY  BRONTE'S   INSPIRATION  133 

to  Mrs.  Gaskell,  that  Emily  should  remain  at  home,  whilst 
Charlotte  went  as  governess  to  Stonegappe,  Anne  to  Blake 
Hall,  and  Branwell  had  a  studio  in  Bradford,  where  he  set 
up  as  a  portrait-painter,  and  worked  with  Mr.  Thompson. 

It  was  in  the  April  of  1839  that  Emily  wrote  The  Absent 
One,  which  was  probably  suggested  by  Anne's  departure 
after  her  Spring  holiday.  The  first  stanza  runs — 

"  From  our  evening  fireside  now 

Merry  laugh  and  cheerful  tone, 
Smiling  eye  and  cloudless  brow, 

Mirth  and  music  all  are  flown. 
Yet  the  grass  before  the  door 

Grows  as  green  in  April  rain, 
And  as  blithely  as  of  yore 

Larks  have  poured  their  daylight  strain."  l 

These  poems  have  more  than  a  bibliographical  interest, 
for  they  prove  that  Emily  Bronte  was  not  altogether  the 
visionary  mystic  which  some  writers  have  assumed.  She  had 
a  kind  heart,  and  her  affection  for  her  home  and  family  was 
greater  than  it  is  supposed  to  have  been.  It  has  been  thought 
that  her  poems  had  no  biographical  reference  either  to  herself 
or  her  family,  but  this  view  is  not  correct.  The  poems  written 
at  Law  Hill  are  distinct  from  the  Haworth  poems,  and 
whilst  they  have  some  affinity  with  the  Gondal  Chronicles 
they  reveal  something  of  the  life  of  the  author  of  Wuthering 
Heights,  and  they  prove  that  none  but  Emily  Bronte  could 
have  written  the  tragedy  of  Wuthering  Heights  as  it  stands. 
Take,  for  instance,  the  poem  beginning  "  Light  up  thy  halls," 
and  dated  1st  November,  1838,  the  last  lines  of  which  are 
characteristic  of  Emily — 

"  Unconquered  in  my  soul  the  Tyrant  rules  me  still : 
Life  bows  to  my  control,  but  Love  I  cannot  kill !  " 

The  poem  beginning  "  The  soft  unclouded  blue  of  air  " 
could  only  have  been  written  by  one  who  was  able  to  create  a 
Heathcliff  some  eight  years  afterwards. 

Environment  confers  nothing  ;  it  can  only  develop  innate 
capacity,  which  Emily  showed  both  in  her  poetry  and  in  her 
novel.  One  other  poem  written  at  this  time  shows  her 

1  Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte,  by  C.  K.  Shorter. 


134       IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTftS 

ambition  and  the  note  of  despair,  that  often  went  hand  in  hand 
all  through  her  life.  She  had  no  "  worldly  wisdom,"  as 
Charlotte  said  after  her  death,  but  her  work  shows  that  not 
only  did  she  possess  genius,  but  that  she  had  high  ideals,  which 
she  ever  struggled  to  attain. 

Emily's  one  wish  seems  to  have  been  to  write  her  thoughts 
in  verse.  In  August,  1837,  when  at  Law  Hill  she  writes— 

"I  asked  myself,  O  why  has  Heaven 
Denied  the  precious  gift  to  me, 
The  glorious  gift  to  many  given, 
To  speak  their  thoughts  in  poetry  ? 

Dreams  have  encircled  me,  I  said, 
From  careless  childhood's  sunny  time ; 
Visions  by  ardent  fancy  fed 
Since  life  was  in  its  morning  prime. 

But  now,  when  I  had  hoped  to  sing, 
My  fingers  strike  a  tuneless  string ; 
And  still  the  burden  of  the  strain — 
I  strive  no  more ;  'tis  all  in  vain."  1 

The  complete  edition  of  Emily  Bronte's  poems  has  proved 
that  some  of  the  mysterious  Gondal  Chronicles  lie  buried  in 
the  poems.  Whether  Emily  wrote  any  chronicles  in  prose  will 
never  be  known,  but  it  is  clear  that  "  the  good  many  books  " 
which  Emily  said  she  had  in  hand  in  July,  1841,  must  have 
been  destroyed. 

As  previously  mentioned,  the  pupils  at  Law  Hill  were  taught 
horse-riding,  and  it  is  not  at  all  unlikely  that  Emily  learnt  to 
ride  whilst  there,  so  that  the  poem,  To  the  horse,  Black  Eagle, 
which  I  rode  at  the  battle  of  Zamorna,  though  imaginative, 
suited  Emily's  fearless  nature.  Emily  may  have  known  the 
delights  of  horse-riding,  and  her  love  for  animals  would  be 
sure  to  include  horses.  Branwell  was  fond  of  horse-riding 
when  he  could  get  the  loan  of  horse,  and  a  saddle-bag  is  now 
to  be  seen  in  the  Bronte  Museum,  which  was  used  both  by  him 
and  by  his  father. 

The  battle  of  Zamorna  was  likely  enough  an  incident  in  the 
Gondal  Chronicles,  and  the  mention  of  the  word  Zamorna 
proves  that  Emily  joined  in  the  writing  of  the  imaginary 

1  Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte,  by  Clement  K.  Shorter. 


A  VOLUME  OF  BRONT&  MANUSCRIPTS       135 

chronicles.  In  the  British  Museum  is  a  small  volume  of 
manuscripts  by  Charlotte  Bronte,  purchased  in  1892  from  a 
Mr.  Nys  of  Brussels.  The  longest  manuscript,  consisting  of 
twenty-six  pages,  is  The  Spell :  an  Extravaganza  by  Lord 
Charles  Albert  Florian  Wellesley  and  signed  Charlotte  Bronte, 
July  21,  1834.  In  it  she  says,  "  I  sign  myself  your  guardian 
in  peace,  your  general  in  war,  your  tyrant  in  rebellion, 
ZAMORNA,"  which  was  Charlotte's  nom  de  guerre  in  1834. 

The  story  is  dated  from  the  Zamorna  Palace  (Emily  writes 
of  the  Palace  of  Instruction)  and  in  a  postscript,  addressed  to 
the  Earl  of  North  Angerland — a  nom  de  guerre  used  by  Bran- 
well  Bronte — Charlotte  writes  :  "  Signed,  your  lordship's 
countryman,  Zamorna,  September  15th,  1834."  Further,  there 
is  a  reference  to  a  speech  by  His  Grace,  the  Duke  of  Zamorna. 

There  is  also  included  in  the  volume  in  the  British  Museum 
a  scrap-book  written  by  Charlotte  Bronte,  dated  March  17th, 
1835,  and  described  on  the  outer  cover  as  "A  mingling  of 
many  things  compiled  by  Lord  C.  A.  F.  Wellesley "  ;  this 
contains  an  "Address  to  the  Angrians  by  His  Grace,  the 
Duke  of  Zamorna,"  and  it  is  interesting  to  know  that  in  May, 
1912,  a  manuscript  of  some  twenty-four  pages  was  sold  in 
London,  entitled  The  Rising  of  the  Angry <ans,  by  Bran  well 
Bronte,  dated  January,  1836,  which  shows  that  Charlotte  and 
Branwell  were  writing  on  similar  subjects,  indeed  judging 
from  these  old  MSS.  the  brother  and  sister  became  rivals, 
and  tilted  arguments  at  each  other.  In  this  address  to  the 
"  Angrians,"  Charlotte  begins  :  "  Men  of  Angria  "  :  "  If  you 
would  only  pronounce  Arthur  Wellesley  your  chosen  leader, 
etc.,"  and  she  signs  herself  "  Your  tyrant  in  rebellion." 

As  further  proof  that  all  the  parsonage  children  were  busy 
with  these  imaginative  stories,  it  is  interesting  to  find  Charlotte 
addresses  a  Lady  Helen  Percy,  and  Emily  in  her  recently 
published  poems  addresses  "  Percy "  several  times,  whilst 
Branwell  wrote  in  1835,  The  Life  of  Field  Marshal  the  Right 
Honourable  Alexander  Percy,  Earl  of  Northangerland,  in  two 
volumes,  by  John  Bud  (P.  B.  Bronte).  In  1837  he  is  credited 
with  a  story,  Percy,  by  P.  B.  Bronte,  and  in  The  Bronte  Family, 
by  the  late  Mr.  Leyland,  is  a  long  poem  on  "Percy  Hall,"  which 


136       IN   THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTfiS 

Mr.  Leyland  tells  us  is  signed  "  North  angerland  "  at  the  top 
and  Alexander  Percy,  Esq.,  at  the  bottom.  Emily  Bronte 
seems  to  be  the  only  one  of  the  family  that  refused  to  use  a 
nom  de  guerre  in  the  early  day.  Either  she  signed  her  own 
name,  or  left  the  poem  unsigned,  so  far  as  is  known. 

Even  Anne  uses  Lady  Geralda,  Alexandrina  Zenotia, 
and  Olivia  Vernon  as  pseudonyms. 

Miss  May  Sinclair  in  her  criticism  on  Emily  Bronte's  poems 
in  The  Three  Brontes  says  :  "  You  can  track  the  great  Gondal 
hero  down  by  that  one  fantastic  name  Zamorna,"  which  Miss 
Sinclair  treats  as  purely  impersonal.  Seeing  that  the  name 
is  associated  with  Charlotte  Bronte,  it  lends  interest  to  the 
Gondal  Chronicles,  showing  that  these  imaginative  plays,  like 
the  Bronte  novels,  had  some  reference  to  the  Bronte  household, 
as  they  used  each  other  as  characters  in  the  plays.  In  the 
light  of  my  discovery  in  the  British  Museum  MS.  that  Charlotte 
wrote  as  "  The  Duke  of  Zamorna  "  in  1834-35,  and  that  Bran  well 
was  known  as  "  Percy,"  the  following  stanza  from  page  229  of 
Mr.  Shorter's  Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte  is  interesting. 

"  What  !    shall  Zamorna  go  down  to  the  dead. 
With  blood  on  his  hand  that  he  wept  to  have  shed  ? 
What !    shall  they  carve  on  his  tomb  with  the  sword 
The  Slayer  of  Percy,  the  scourge  of  the  Lord  ? 
Bright  flashed  the  fire  in  the  young  Duke's  eye 
As  he  spoke  in  the  tones  of  the  trumpet  swelling. 
Then  he  stood  still  and  watched  earnestly  how  these  tones 
were  on  Percy's  spirit  telling."1 

Charlotte  heads  one  chapter  of  one  of  the  early  manuscripts 
addressed  to  Percy  :  "  He  comes,  the  conquering  hero  comes." 
For  many  years  Bronte  enthusiasts  have  been  searching  for 
the  manuscript  of  the  early  part  of  a  story  sent  to  Wordsworth 
in  the  summer  of  1840  (if  Mrs.  GaskelPs  date  is  correct),  but 
as  Wordsworth's  letter  is  undated,  there  is  no  proof  ;  and 
Mrs.  Gaskell  has  more  than  once  put  letters  under  the  wrong 
date,  and  even  placed  an  extract  from  one  letter  as  being 
from  a  totally  different  one,  though  it  is  possible  that  the  MS. 
was  sent  in  1840,  but  if  it  refers  to  the  MS.  now  in  the  British 
Museum,  that  is  dated  1834  and  1835. 

1  Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte,  by  Clement  K.  Shorter. 


CHARLOTTE'S  SELECTION  OF  EMILY'S  POEMS    137 

Comparing  The  Spell  with  Charlotte  Bronte's  letter  to 
Wordsworth,  we  can  perceive  that  it  answers  to  the  description, 
for  there  is  the  character  of  "Percy"  mentioned  repeatedly, 
and  also  a  "  Georgina  "  and  "  Eliza,"  which  afterwards  appear 
in  Jane  Eyre.  The  MS.  is  in  very  minute  hand  printing  and 
needs  a  powerful  magnifying  glass  to  decipher  it.  It  is  evidently 
the  MS.  which  Mr.  Shorter  says  cannot  be  traced. 

Since  Mrs.  Gaskell  saw  the  MS.  in  1855,  it  is  clear  that  she 
saw  it  in  Brussels.  Referring  to  it  Mrs.  Gaskell  says  :  "  Some 
fragments  of  the  manuscript  yet  remain,  but  it  is  in  too  small 
a  hand  to  be  read  without  great  fatigue  to  the  eyes  ;  and  one 
cares  the  less  to  read  it,  as  she  herself  condemned  it,  in  the 
preface  to  the  Professor,  by  saying  that  in  this  story  she  had 
got  over  such  taste  as  she  might  once  have  had  for  the 
4  ornamental  and  redundant  in  composition.'  " 

No  fewer  than  eighty  poems  in  the  complete  edition  of 
Emily  Bronte's  poems  contain  imaginative  names  which 
possibly  refer  to  the  Gondal  Chronicles.  Had  Emily  Bronte 
lived  to  know  of  her  success,  both  as  a  poet  and  a  novelist, 
she  might  have  given  to  the  world  her  cycle  of  Gondal 
Chronicles,  which  were  probably  never  completed.  Charlotte 
possibly  destroyed  some,  which  she  considered  not  to  be  of 
sufficient  merit  to  be  included  in  the  second  collection  of  poems 
published  in  1850,  though  some  are  now  published. 

Of  the  selections  made  by  Charlotte  of  Emily  Bronte's 
poems,  the  best  known  are  The  Philosopher,  Remembrance, 
Hope,  Honour's  Martyr,  The  old  Stoic,  A  little  while,  a  little 
while,  The  Visionary  and  Last  Lines,  which  will  always  bear 
repeating,  for  they  are  not  to  be  surpassed  in  dignity  and  self- 
reliance.  Unfortunately  these  are  not  all  dated.  Charlotte 
and  Anne  have  had  some  of  their  poems  set  to  music,  but 
most  of  Emily's  are  unsuitable  for  song.  The  voice  of  the 
soul  is  tense  and  suppressed,  so  much  so  that  in  reading  them 
aloud  there  is  a  heart-ache.  Emily  Bronte  was  intensely 
introspective,  and  the  gift  of  humour  had  passed  her  by.  Her 
poems  grow  upon  the  reader  and  they  gain  by  re-reading,  for 
the  spirit  of  the  mystic  broods  over  all  she  wrote  and  they 
provide  food  rather  for  the  soul  than  for  the  intellect. 


CHAPTER  XI 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  OFFERS  OF  MARRIAGE 
1839 

ANNE  BRONT£  becomes  a  governess  at  Blake  Hall,  Mirfield — Agnes 
Grey  and  Blake  Hall — Charlotte  Bronte's  first  offer  of  marriage — 
Her  views  on  marriage — The  Rev.  Henry  Nussey — a  prototype  of 
St.  John  Rivers  in  Jane  Eyre — His  unfortunate  love  affairs — 
Mr.  Nussey's  Diary — Charlotte  Bronte's  refusal  of  the  offer — 
Christmas  time  at  the  Haworth  Vicarage — Charlotte  Bronte  becomes 
a  governess  at  Stonegappe — Mr.  John  Benson  Sidgwick — Gateshead 
Hall  in  Jane  Eyre — She  complains  of  her  treatment  at  Stonegappe — 
Mrs.  Gaskell's  Account — Charlotte  Bronte*  visits  Swarcliffe, 
Harrogate — Norton  Conyers  and  Thornfield  Hall — Her  second  offer 
of  marriage — First  visit  to  the  sea — Easton  and  Bridlington — 
Ellen  Nussey's  account  of  the  holiday. 

IN  the  early  part  of  1839  the  three  Bronte  sisters  were  at  home, 
and  Charlotte  and  Anne  decided  that  they  ought  to  take  steps 
to  earn  their  own  living.  Anne,  the  youngest  daughter, 
secured  an  appointment  first ;  she  was  now  nineteen,  and, 
though  never  so  definite  in  her  views  as  her  sisters,  she  was  not 
lacking  in  courage.  The  old  people  at  Haworth  described  her 
as  gentle,  sweet  and  good,  with  very  pretty  features,  and  long 
curls  of  light  brown  hair.  Her  first  situation  was  with  a 
Mrs.  Ingham,  at  Blake  Hall,  Mirfield — a  fine  country  mansion 
surrounded  by  a  park.  The  house  is  still  in  existence,  and  is 
occupied  by  a  relative  of  the  people  who  were  the  tenants  in 
the  time  of  Anne  Bronte's  governess  days.  As  Agnes  Grey 
never  became  popular,  little  attention  has  been  directed  to 
Anne's  account  of  the  family  in  her  novel,  but,  in  a  preface  to 
a  new  edition,  she  tells  her  critics  who  have  accused  her  of 
exaggeration  that  the  story  is  true  enough.  If  that  is  so,  she 
had  a  very  hard  time  of  it. 

Charlotte  Bronte  was  at  that  time  hoping  to  find  a  suitable 
appointment  in  a  private  family,  for  her  experience  as  governess 
in  Miss  Wooler's  school  at  Roe  Head  and  afterwards  at  Dews- 
bury  Moor  had  proved  too  much  for  her  highly-strung  and 
conscientious  nature. 

138 


CHARLOTTE'S  FIRST  OFFER   OF  MARRIAGE     139 

It  was  after  her  serious  breakdown  at  Dewsbury  Moor  that, 
on  the  advice  of  the  local  doctor,  Mr.  Bronte  invited  Mary  and 
Martha  Taylor  to  Haworth,  and  in  one  of  her  letters  to  Ellen 
Nussey  Charlotte  gives  a  pretty  picture  of  the  happy  group 
at  the  parsonage,  during  the  holiday.  Branwell  and  lively 
little  Martha  Taylor,  who  was  known  as  Miss  Boisterous, 
seem  to  have  got  on  well  together,  and  the  society  of  the 
sisters  restored  Charlotte  to  health.  It  was  an  attack  of 
hypochondria  which  she  mentions  in  The  Professor. 

It  was  just  after  Charlotte's  serious  illness  that  she  received 
her  first  offer  of  marriage  from  the  Rev.  Henry  Nussey,  when 
she  was  twenty-three  years  of  age.  Her  determined  rejection 
of  the  proposal  has  been  considered  a  proof  that  she  had  an 
aversion  from  marriage.  Mrs.  Gaskell  writes  of  Charlotte  : 
"  Her  first  proposal  of  marriage  was  quietly  declined,  and  put 
on  one  side.  Matrimony  did  not  enter  into  her  scheme  of  life, 
but  good,  sound,  earnest  labour  did."  This,  however,  is 
quite  a  mistake,  for  few  women  ever  gave  more  thought  to 
matrimony  than  Charlotte  Bronte.  Marriage,  in  her  view, 
should  mean  a  real  union  between  two  souls,  such  as  existed 
between  Rochester  and  Jane  Eyre,  Heathcliff  and  Catherine 
in  Wuthering  Heights,  and  Paul  Emanuel  and  Lucy  Snowe 
in  Villette.  There  was  to  be  a  fusing  of  true  passion  between 
two  spirits,  such  as  few  women  could  ever  imagine,  much  less 
experience.  Charlotte  Bronte's  idea  of  marriage  for  herself 
was  much  beyond  that  which  she  entertained  for  her  friend 
Ellen  Nussey,  simply  because  she  knew  that  Ellen  Nussey 
could  be  satisfied  with  far  less  than  she  herself  could  be  content 
ever  to  accept ;  hence  her  letters  of  advice  about  marriage 
are  tame  enough,  which  probably  led  Mrs.  Gaskell  to  think 
that  she  had  no  eagerness  for  marriage,  but  the  novels  prove 
the  opposite.  No  woman  had  a  greater  desire  for  a  true 
marriage  and  the  subject  was  never  far  from  her  thoughts. 
Charlotte  Bronte's  first  offer  of  marriage  was  from  the  brother 
of  her  friend  Ellen  Nussey.  He  was  a  clergyman,  and  at  the 
time  he  wrote  proposing  marriage  to  Charlotte  Bronte  he  was 
curate  at  Earnley,  near  Chichester.  To  anyone  who  has 
read  Mr.  Nussey's  diary,  it  is  very  certain  he  was  not  the  man 


140      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONT&S 

to  mate  with  Charlotte  Bronte.  In  his  diary  Mr.  Nussey 
mentions  under  date,  Tuesday  25th  (1831)  :  "Went  with  my 
sister  Ellen  to  the  Miss  Wooler's  school  at  Roe  Head,  Mirfield." 
As  Charlotte  Bronte  became  a  pupil  at  Roe  Head  School 
a  few  days  before  Ellen  Nussey,  it  is  possible  she  met  Mr. 
Nussey  there.  He  was  evidently  anxious  to  write  his  diary 
that  others  might  see  it,  for  in  March,  1828,  he  enters — 

"  Whoever  after  my  decease  may  be  led  to  peruse  these 
pages  which  have  been  written  or  may  hereafter  be  written, 
I  pray  them  not  to  read  as  critics,  but  for  profit.  These  are 
private  thoughts  penned  for  my  own  personal  profit." 

Ellen  Nussey  wished  to  save  Charlotte  Bronte  from  the 
drudgery  of  teaching  amongst  strangers,  and  her  deep  concern 
for  her  friend,  together  with  her  love  for  her  brother,  caused 
her  to  try  her  hand  at  match-making.  Miss  Nussey  was  not 
afraid  to  own  in  later  days  that  she  had  hoped  the  proposal 
would  meet  with  success.  This  would  have  enabled  her 
to  be  more  closely  associated  with  Charlotte  Bronte,  who  was 
not  unaware  of  the  advantage  of  the  engagement  from  this 
standpoint.  She  even  mentioned  it  to  Ellen  Nussey  in  a 
letter  after  she  had  refused  the  proposal.  A  short  time  before, 
Charlotte  Bronte  had  written  to  Ellen  Nussey  saying  :  "I 
often  plan  the  pleasant  life  which  we  might  lead  together 
....  My  eyes  fill  with  tears  when  I  contrast  the  bliss  of  such 
a  state,  brightened  by  hopes  of  the  future,  with  the  melan- 
choly state  I  now  live  in."  Although  Charlotte  Bronte  hated 
teaching,  she  was  answering  advertisements  with  the  hope  of 
obtaining  a  situation.  This  Ellen  Nussey  knew,  and  the 
proposal  from  Mr.  Nussey  was  sent  on  28th  February — three 
months  before  Charlotte  Bronte  got  the  situation  at 
Stonegappe. 

There  is  no  record  of  the  cool,  calm,  matter-of-fact  proposal, 
which  Charlotte  Bronte  received  from  Henry  Nussey,  though 
there  is  in  his  diary,"now  in  the  possession  of  Mr.  J.  J.  Stead, 
of  Heckmondwike,  a  brief  reference  to  the  circumstance,  from 
which  it  is  easy  to  guess  that  the  offer  was  one  of  convenience 
rather  than  of  genuine  love. 


CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  VIEW  OF  MARRIAGE    141 

"  I  scorn  the  counterfeit  sentiment  you  offer  :  yes,  St. 
John,  and  I  scorn  you  when  you  offer  it,*'  says  Jane  Eyre,  and 
it  is  well  known  that  the  Rev.  Henry  Nussey  was  not  really 
in  love  with  Charlotte  Bronte. 

The  young  curate  was  evidently  more  intent  on  finding  a 
housekeeper  than  a  wife,  and  he  told  Charlotte  Bronte  frankly 
that  he  intended  to  take  pupils,  and  in  due  time  he  should  need 
a  wife  to  take  care  of  them.  In  Jane  Eyre  the  author  says — 

"  He  asks  me  to  be  his  wife,  and  has  no  more  of  a  husband's 
heart  for  me  than  that  frowning  giant  of  a  rock,  down  which 
the  stream  is  foaming  in  yonder  gorge.  He  prizes  me  as  a 
soldier  would  a  good  weapon  ;  and  that  is  all." 

Ellen  Nussey  was  so  anxious  to  know  if  Charlotte  Bronte 
had  received  the  proposal  from  her  brother  that  she  wrote  to 
ask  her.  In  reply  Charlotte  Bronte  wisely  says  that  if  Ellen 
Nussey  had  not  mentioned  the  matter  she  should  not  have 
done  so. 

"March  12,  1839. 

"...  I  had  a  kindly  leaning  towards  him,  because  he  is  an 
amiable  and  well-disposed  man.  Yet  I  had  not,  and  could 
not  have,  that  intense  attachment  which  would  make  me 
willing  to  die  for  him  ;  and  if  ever  I  marry  it  must  be  hi  that 
light  of  adoration  that  I  will  regard  my  husband.  Ten  to  one 
I  shall  never  have  the  chance  again  ;  but  n'importe.  Moreover, 
I  was  aware  that  he  knew  so  little  of  me  he  could  hardly  be 
conscious  to  whom  he  was  writing.  Why  !  it  would  startle 
him  to  see  me  in  my  natural  home  character  ;  he  would  think 
I  was  a  wild,  romantic  enthusiast  indeed.  I  could  not  sit 
all  day  long  making  a  grave  face  before  my  husband.  I  would 
laugh,  and  satirise,  and  say  whatever  came  into  my  head  first. 
And  if  he  were  a  clever  man,  and  loved  me,  the  whole  world, 
weighed  in  the  balance  against  his  smallest  wish,  would  be 
light  as  air." 

This  answer  refutes  Mrs.  Gaskell's  description  of  Charlotte 
Bronte  as  being  a  sad,  unhappy  woman  at  this  time,  and  it 
is  noticeable  that  Charlotte  wishes  to  marry  a  clever  man ; 
hence  her  enthusiasm  for  Mr.  Heger  in  later  days. 


142       IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTfiS 

The  Rev.  Henry  Nussey  was  undoubtedly  the  prototype 
of  •"  St.  John  Rivers  "  in  Jane  Eyre,  and  the  cold,  heartless, 
though  nevertheless  business-like  proposal  to  the  little  school- 
mistress in  the  novel  is  based  on  this  first  proposal  of  marriage 
in  1839.  After  an  interval  of  seventy-four  years,  it  is  almost 
sacrilege  to  handle  Mr.  Nussey's  diary,  in  which  he  has  entered 
his  unfortunate  love  affairs,  for  it  is  necessary  to  mention  that 
just  before  proposing  to  Charlotte  Bronte  he  had  proposed 
to  the  daughter  of  his  former  Vicar,  Mr.  Lutwidge,  and,  on  the 
day  of  receiving  a  refusal  from  this  lady,  he  proposed  to 
Charlotte  Bronte.  In  his  diary  he  says — 

"  Saturday,  16  [February,  1839].  Received  a  letter  from 
Mr.  L.,  senr.,  with  a  negative  to  my  wishes.  Thy  will,  O  Lord, 
be  done." 

"  Monday,  18.     Wrote  again  to  M.  A.  L.  and  to  sister  Ellen." 

It  was  probably  in  answer  to  this  that  Ellen  Nussey  sug- 
gested the  approach  to  Charlotte  Bronte,  for  the  next  entry 
reads — 

"  Thursday,  28.  (Henry  Nussey's  birthday.)  On  Tuesday 
last  received  a  decisive  reply  from  M.  A.  L.'s  papa.  A  loss, 
but  I  trust  a  providential  one.  Believe  not  her  will,  but  her 
father's.  All  right.  God  knows  best  what  is  good  for  us, 
for  his  Church,  and  for  his  own  glory.  This  I  humbly  desire. 
And  His  will  be  done,  and  not  mine  in  this  or  in  anything  else. 
Evermore  give  me  this  spirit  of  my  lord  and  master.  Wrote 
to  Yorke,  friend  C.  B.  [Charlotte  Bronte'],  John  and  George 
also  "  [his  brothers]. 

"Saturday,  9th  March.  .  .  .  Received  an  unfavourable 
report  from  C.  B.  The  will  of  the  Lord  be  done." 

According  to  Mr.  Nussey's  diary,  Mr.  Lutwidge  asked  him 
to  resign  his  cuiacy  on  account  of  "  the  inadequacy  of  my 
powers  to  fulfil  its  duties."  Mr.  Nussey  was  in  ill  health  at 
the  time. 

It  is  probable  that  Charlotte  Bronte  knew  of  the  proposal 
to  Miss  Lutwidge,  for  in  Jane  Eyre  St.  John  Rivers  has  a  some- 
what similar  experience  with  Miss  Rosamond  Oliver  before 
proposing  to  Jane  Eyre,  and  a  reply  telling  of  Miss  Oliver's 


REV.   HENRY   NUSSEY  143 

engagement  is  received  from  Miss  Oliver's  papa  ;  Jane  Eyre 
is  as  definite  in  her  refusal  as  was  Charlotte  Bronte. 

Not  only  with  regard  to  the  offer  of  marriage  is  Mr.  Nussey 
the  prototype  of  "  St.  John  Rivers,"  but  also  in  the  fact  that 
he  wished  to  become  a  missionary,  and  was  greatly  interested 
in  missionary  work.  In  his  diary  there  are  no  fewer  than 
fifteen  references  to  missionaries  and  his  desire  to  help  in  the 
foreign  mission  work.  It  is  noticeable  the  names  Elliot  and 
Poole  appear  in  this  diary  and  both  are  used  in  Jane  Eyre. 

Henry  Nussey  was  one  of  a  family  of  eleven  children.  One 
of  his  brothers,  Joshua,  was  a  clergyman,  being  curate  of 
St.  John's,  Westminster.  Two  of  the  brothers  were  doctors 
of  repute,  being  surgeons-in-ordinary  to  King  William  IV  and 
to  Queen  Victoria. 

He  was  born  at  Birstall  in  1812,  thus  being  four  years  older 
than  Charlotte  Bronte.  He  received  a  good  education, 
and  was,  at  an  early  age,  destined  for  the  Church.  His  diary 
reveals  a  character  in  many  respects  like  St.  John  Rivers  : 
"  Zealous  in  his  ministerial  labours,  and  blameless  in  his 
life  and  habits,  he  yet  did  not  appear  to  enjoy  that  mental 
serenity,  that  inward  content,  which  should  be  the  reward 
of  every  sincere  Christian  and  practical  philanthropist." 
So  closely  does  this  describe  him  that  Charlotte  might  have 
seen  his  diary. 

At  the  age  of  twenty  he  entered  Magdalene  College,  Cam- 
bridge, and  was  recognised  as  an  evangelical.  His  diary  con- 
tains many  references  to  spiritual  matters,  and  shows  that  he 
was  a  devout  and  spiritually -minded  man.  According  to  his 
diary  he  became  greatly  interested  in  foreign  missions  when 
about  sixteen — 

"  I  trust  I  shall  be  called  to  the  ministry,  and  should  it  be 
the  Lord's  will,  I  would,  for  Christ's  sake,  gladly  be  called  to  be 
a  missionary,  if  I  could  in  any  degree  be  an  instrument  in  God's 
hands,  of  promoting  the  salvation  of  mankind." 

He  was  prevented  from  carrying  out  his  intention  of  becoming 
a  missionary  by  an  injury  to  his  head,  caused  by  a  fall  from  a 
restive  horse.  He  mentions  this  in  his  diary.  He  was  ill 


144       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

for  a  long  time  and  he  gave  up  the  idea  of  going  abroad,  as  it 
might  be  unfavourable  to  his  ultimate  recovery.  In  one  of 
her  letters,  Charlotte  Bronte  speaks  of  the  Nusseys  as  being 
"  far  from  strong,  and  having  no  stamina."  George  Nussey, 
another  brother,  suffered  for  some  time  from  mental  trouble, 
and,  in  the  privately  printed  volume  of  Charlotte  Bronte's 
letters  in  which  she  mentions  the  brother's  affliction,  Miss 
Nussey  has  scored  out  the  references  to  her  brother  in  her  own 
copy  of  the  book. 

It  is  very  evident  that  the  young  curate  did  not  break  his 
heart  after  Charlotte  Bronte's  refusal,  for  he  shortly  after- 
wards became  engaged  to  Miss  Emily  Prescott,  of  Eversley,  and 
was  married  at  Ever  ton,  near  Lymington,  Hampshire,  on  22nd 
May,  1845.  He  had  by  then  been  appointed  Vicar  of  Hather- 
sage,  in  Derbyshire.  Ellen  Nussey  sent  Charlotte  a  portrait 
of  her  brother  Henry  in  1843  when  she  was  at  Brussels. 

Charlotte  Bronte  never  regretted  refusing  her  friend's  brother, 
and  when,  six  months  afterwards,  she  heard  that  he  was 
engaged  to  be  married  she  wrote  a  friendly  letter,  congratu- 
lating him  on  the  event.  An  obituary  column  of  the  Daily 
Mirror  of  12th  February,  1907,  thus  recorded  :  "  Nussey— On 
2nd  February,  at  Nice,  Emily,  widow  of  the  late  Rev.  Henry 
Nussey,  formerly  Vicar  of  Hathersage,  aged  95." 

Mr.  Nussey,  like  St.  John  Rivers,  started  a  Sunday  School 
at  Hathersage,  which  figures  as  Morton  in  Jane  Eyre,  but  the 
Vicar  never  gained  the  desire  of  his  heart  to  go  out  as  a 
missionary  to  India  as  was  the  case  with  St.  John  Rivers. 

Christmas  always  found  the  Bronte  sisters  at  home,  and, 
though  they  seem  never  to  have  made  it  a  very  gay  season, 
the  sisters  and  brothers  enjoyed  it  in  their  own  quiet  way. 
Haworth  kept  up  Christmas  in  the  old-fashioned  manner, 
and  as  the  villagers  were  typical  Yorkshire  people,  renowned 
for  their  thrift,  there  were  few  homes  that  were  not  provided 
with  an  abundance  of  Christmas  fare. 

The  Vicarage  kitchen  was  modelled  on  the  Yorkshire  plan, 
and,  although  Miss  Branwell  would  have  liked  to  introduce 
Cornish  pasties  and  clotted  cream,  Tabby  Aykroyd  and 
Martha  Brown,  and  in  earlier  years  Nancy  and  Sarah  Garrs, 


A  SCHOOL  PROJECT  145 

provided  true  Yorkshire  fare.  Emily  Bronte  was  especially 
clever  in  cooking  and  in  making  delicious  Yorkshire  bread  and 
cakes. 

Christmas  also  seemed  to  be  the  time  when  the  Bronte 
sisters  met  in  conference  to  discuss  ways  and  means,  and  at 
the  end  of  1839  Charlotte,  Emily  and  Bran  well  were  living 
at  home,  Anne  being  the  only  one  who  was  employed  at  that 
time  outside  the  Vicarage. 

As  the  daughters  of  Mr.  Bronte"  gained  experience  in  teaching, 
they  hoped  to  begin  a  school  of  their  own  on  the  east  coast  of 
Yorkshire,  and  naturally  this  was  a  constant  topic  of  conversa- 
tion during  the  Christmas  time.  The  principal  difficulty  was 
to  obtain  sufficient  money  for  such  a  venture,  especially  as 
both  the  Vicar  and  Miss  Branwell  were  afraid  to  risk  their 
small  means  on  such  an  enterprise.  It  is  quite  certain  that 
the  father  did  not  wish  to  lose  his  three  daughters  from  the 
home,  and  in  consequence  he  did  not  encourage  the  school 
plan  ;  nor  did  Miss  Branwell  care  to  be  left  alone  to  manage 
the  brusque  Yorkshire  servants,  though  it  is  evident  that 
neither  Charlotte  nor  Emily  had  a  very  tender  regard  for  the 
old  aunt,  whose  unsympathetic  and  dictatorial  manners 
they  much  resented. 

Much  as  Emily  loved  the  old  home  and  the  moors,  her  little 
diary,  written  when  she  was  just  twenty-three,  shows  that 
she  had  her  dream  of  getting  away  with  her  sisters,  and 
she  pictures  the  two  sisters  and  herself  happy  in  "  a  flourishing 
seminary  "  with  plenty  of  money,  and  her  father,  aunt  and 
brother  either  being  on  a  visit  to  them,  or  just  returning  from 
a  visit.  After  the  Christmas  vacation,  Anne  returned  to  her 
appointment  at  Thorpe  Green,  Little  Ouseburn.  As  Emily 
was  more  or  less  essential  at  the  Vicarage,  Charlotte  was  left 
without  definite  employment,  though,  as  Tabby,  the  old  servant, 
had  to  leave  for  a  time,  Charlotte  was  happy  blackleading 
stoves,  ironing  the  linen  and  managing  to  burn  it,  much  to 
Miss  BranwelPs  vexation,  whilst  Emily  was  busy  with  the 
cooking. 

Charlotte,  in  her  outspoken  way,  says  :  "  We  are  such  odd 
animals  ;  we  prefer  this  to  having  a  strange  face  amongst  us." 

10 (2200) 


146      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Not  to  be  daunted,  she  advertised  for  a  situation  as  governess, 
and  answered  advertisements,  but  for  some  time  her  efforts 
met  with  no  success. 

In  May,  1839,  however,  she  obtained  a  temporary  situation 
as  governess  to  the  children  of  Mrs.  John  Benson  Sidgwick, 
at  Stonegappe,  Lothersdale,  near  Kildwick  and  Cononley, 
in  the  West  Riding  of  Yorkshire. 

Mr.  Sidgwick  was  a  woollen  manufacturer  at  Skipton,  a 
few  miles  away.  Mrs.  Gaskell  tells  us  that  she  did  not  visit 
Stonegappe,  when  collecting  materials  for  the  Life  of  Charlotte 
Bronte  ;  neither  did  she  visit  Upper  Wood  House,  Rawdon, 
the  only  other  place  where  Charlotte  Bronte  was  a  private 
governess.  We  are  not  given  any  reason  for  her  omitting 
visits  to  these  places,  but  it  is  probable  that  she  did  not  think 
that  either  place  had  influenced  Charlotte  Bronte  very  much. 
How  mistaken  this  view  was  may  be  gathered  from  the  most 
exciting  chapters  of  Jane  Eyre,  for  it  is  now  known  that 
Gateshead  Hall,  described  in  the  early  part  of  the  novel,  was 
based  upon  Stonegappe,  and  the  incidents  connected  with 
Bertha  Mason,  the  mad  wife  of  Rochester,  were  suggested  by 
a  visit  with  the  Sidgwick  family  to  a  house  at  Swarcliffe,  near 
Harrogate,  which  Mrs.  Sidgwick's  father — Mr.  Greenwood — 
had  rented  for  the  summer,  during  the  time  when  Charlotte 
Bronte  was  a  governess  in  his  family. 

Through  the  kindness  of  the  owner  of  Stonegappe,  I  was 
allowed,  some  years  ago,  to  go  through  the  various  rooms  in 
the  house,  and  it  is  quite  evident  that  Charlotte  Bronte  had 
the  place  in  her  mind  when  she  described  Gateshead  Hall  in 
Jane  Eyre.  A  bedroom  was  pointed  out  as  being  "  the  red- 
room  "  in  which  Jane  Eyre  was  supposed  to  have  had  a  fit. 
This  room  was  shut  off  from  the  other  parts  of  the  house,  and 
was  approached  by  a  long  corridor.  A  child,  locked  in  that 
bedroom,  would  naturally  be  terrified,  and  from  the  outside 
it  was  clear  that  it  would  have  little  chance  of  escape.  The 
long,  shady  drive  leading  to  the  house,  and  the  breakfast-room 
on  the  ground  floor,  are  still  as  they  were  in  Charlotte  Bronte's 
time.  It  was  in  the  cosy  window-seat  of  this  room  that  Jane 
Eyre  was  supposed  to  have  read  Bewick's  British  Birds, 


STONEGAPPE  147 

whilst  secluded,  as  she  imagined,  by  the  folds  of  the  scarlet 
drapery. 

Stonegappe  is  a  large,  roomy  house,  beautifully  situated 
on  the  slope  of  the  hill  overlooking  the  valley  through  which 
runs  the  Lothersdale  beck.  There  is  a  fine  view  from  the  bay 
windows  in  the  front  of  the  house,  and  the  beauty  of  the 
surrounding  district  appealed  to  Charlotte  Bronte.  Writing 
to  her  sister  Emily  on  8th  June,  1839,  she  says — 

"  I  have  striven  hard  to  be  pleased  with  my  new  situation. 
The  country,  the  house,  and  the  grounds  are,  as  I  have  said, 
divine  ;  but,  alack-a-day !  there  is  such  a  thing  as  seeing  all 
beautiful  around  you — pleasant  woods,  white  paths,  green 
lawns,  and  the  blue  sunshiny  sky — and  not  having  a  free 
moment  or  a  free  thought  left  to  enjoy  them." 

She  complained  bitterly  of  the  treatment  which  she  received 
at  Stonegappe  from  Mrs.  Sidgwick — 

"The  childrexi  are  constantly  with  me.  As  for  correcting 
them,  I  quickly  found  that  was  out  of  the  question  ;  they  are 
to  do  as  they  like.  A  complaint  to  the  mother  only  brings 
black  looks  on  myself,  and  unjust,  partial  excuses  to  screen  the 
children.  I  have  tried  that  plan  once,  and  succeeded  so  nota- 
bly I  shall  try  no  more.  I  said  in  my  last  letter  that  Mrs.  Sidg- 
wick did  not  know  me.  I  now  begin  to  find  she  does  not  intend 
to  know  me  ;  that  she  cares  nothing  about  me,  except  to  contrive 
how  the  greatest  possible  quantity  of  labour  may  be  got  out 
of  me  ;  and  to  that  end  she  overwhelms  me  with  oceans  of 
needlework  ;  yards  of  cambric  to  hem,  muslin  night-caps  to 
make,  and,  above  all  things,  dolls  to  dress." 

Charlotte  Bronte  seemed  to  have  a  good  opinion  of  Mr. 
Sidgwick,  though,  of  course,  he  had  little  to  do  with  the 
children.  All  through  her  life  she  thought  more  highly  of 
men  than  of  women,  and,  with  the  exception  of  Ellen  Nussey 
and  Mary  Taylor,  her  relations  with  men  appear  to  have  been 
more  satisfactory  than  with  her  own  sex. 

Although  Mrs.  Gaskell  did  not  give  the  names  of  the 
employers,  they  were  very  quickly  traced,  and  much  pain 
was  caused  to  the  family  by  the  thinly-veiled  references  to 


148       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Mrs.  Sidgwick.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  there  was  much  to  be  said 
for  those  with  whom  Charlotte  Bronte  lived  as  a  private 
governess.  In  spite  of  all  efforts  to  prove  the  contrary,  it 
cannot  be  said  that  she  had  any  real  love  for  children.  The 
peevish  reference  in  her  letter  to  "  above  all  things,  dolls  to 
dress,"  is  too  convincing.  A  woman  of  twenty-three  who 
loved  children  would  find  the  dressing  of  dolls  an  interesting 
occupation.  It  is  quite  certain  that  she  was  not  adapted  for 
the  life  of  a  governess  ;  it  is  doubtful  if  those  committed  to 
her  care  derived  much  benefit  from  her  instruction  and  super- 
vision. All  Charlotte's  Sunday  school  scholars  agree  that  she 
was  very  strict,  and,  with  one  exception,  her  pupils'  names 
never  occur  in  her  letters. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  tells  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  heroism  in  shielding 
one  of  the  little  Sidgwicks,  who  had  thrown  a  stone  at  her,  and 
struck  her  on  the  temple.  When  Mrs.  Sidgwick  asked  what 
had  caused  the  mark,  Charlotte  Bronte  quietly  said,  "An 
accident,  ma'am."  The  children  in  consequence  honoured 
her  for  not  telling  tales,  and  became  more  amenable  to  discipline. 
The  little  culprit  especially  showed  his  gratitude  some  time 
afterwards,  by  putting  his  hand  into  Charlotte  Bronte's,  and 
exclaiming  :  "  I  love  'ou,  Miss  Bronte."  The  mother  was 
evidently  surprised,  for  she  exclaimed  before  all  the  children  : 
"  Love  the  governess,  my  dear  !  "  Mrs.  Gaskell  does  not  tell 
us  that  at  the  end  of  the  letter  relating  this  incident  Charlotte 
Bronte  says  to  Emily  :  "  Mrs.  Sidgwick  expects  me  to  do  things 
I  cannot  do — to  love  her  children  and  be  entirely  devoted  to 
them."  So  that  the  incident  says  more  for  the  pupil  than  the 
governess. 

The  family  at  Stonegappe  naturally  resented  Mrs.  Gaskell's 
reference  to  incidents  occurring  within  the  family  circle  during 
Charlotte  Bronte's  stay  with  them. 

Mr.  John  Benson  Sidgwick  was  cousin  to  Archbishop  Benson, 
who  paid  several  visits  to  Stonegappe  in  his  youth,  but  not 
during  Charlotte  Bronte's  stay.  In  the  Life  of  Edward  White 
Benson,  sometime  Archbishop  of  Canterbury,  by  Mr.  A.  C. 
Benson,  who  once  wrote  of  Charlotte  Bronte  as  "  the  first  of 
women  writers  of  every  age,"  it  is  recorded — 


MRS.  SIDGWICK  149 

"Charlotte  Bronte  acted  as  governess  to  my  cousins  at 
Stonegappe  for  a  few  months  in  1839.  Few  traditions  of  her 
connection  with  the  Sidgwicks  survive.  She  was,  according 
to  her  own  account,  very  unkindly  treated,  bat  it  is  clear  that 
she  had  no  gifts  for  the  management  of  children,  and  was  also 
in  a  very  morbid  condition  the  whole  time.  My  cousin 
Benson  Sidgwick,  now  Vicar  of  Ashby  Parva,  certainly  on  one 
occasion  threw  a  Bible  at  Miss  Bronte !  and  all  that  another 
cousin  can  recollect  of  her  is  that  if  she  was  invited  to  walk 
to  church  with  them,  she  thought  she  was  being  ordered  about 
like  a  slave  ;  if  she  was  not  invited,  she  imagined  that  she  was 
excluded  from  the  family  circle.  Both  Mr.  and  Mrs.  John 
Sidgwick  were  extraordinarily  benevolent  people,  much  beloved, 
and  would  not  willingly  have  given  pain  to  anyone  connected 
with  them."1 

It  is  also  on  record  that  Charlotte  Bronte,  when  with  the 
Sidgwicks  at  Swarcliffe,  stayed  in  bed  the  whole  of  one  day, 
sulking,  and  thus  left  Mrs.  Sidgwick  to  look  after  the  children 
as  best  she  could.  Clearly  Charlotte's  genius  was  not  helpful 
to  her  as  a  teacher. 

During  half  the  time  that  Charlotte  Bronte  was  in  the  employ 
of  Mrs.  Sidgwick,  she  was  with  the  family  at  Swarcliffe,  near 
Harrogate.  Whilst  there  she  visited  Norton  Conyers,  an  old 
mansion,  that  has  been  in  the  Graham  family  since  the 
seventeenth  century. 

Though  she  does  not  appear  to  have  mentioned  Norton 
Conyers  in  her  letters,  Ellen  Nussey  well  remembered  her 
giving  an  account  of  it,  and  relating  the  tradition  of  the  mad 
woman  associated  with  the  place.  A  former  owner  said 
that  he  was  convinced  that  the  interior  of  Thornfield  Hall, 
referred  to  in  Jane  Eyre,  must  have  been  taken  from  Norton 
Conyers,  as  it  is  true  to  the  minutest  detail. 

Continuing  her  description,  the  novelist  turns  to  the  grounds 
around  the  Rydings  at  Birstall,  and  Thornfield  Hall  becomes 
a  composite  picture,  for  the  Rydings  is  a  two-storied  building, 
whereas  Thornfield  Hall  is  a  three-storied  mansion,  though 
the  garden  and  the  sunk  fence  are  common  to  both  houses. 

1  The  Life,  of  Edward  White  Benson. 


150       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

A  relative  of  a  former  resident  of  Norton  Conyers  said  that 
when  Charlotte  Bronte  was  staying  at  Swarcliffe,  the  third 
storey  of  Norton  Conyers  was  exactly  as  she  described  it  in 
Jane  Eyre,  for  Sir  Bellingham  Graham,  who  then  owned  the 
mansion,  had  sold  his  estate  near  by  at  Nunnington,  and  stored 
the  furniture  in  the  low  upper  rooms  at  Norton  Conyers, 
which  gave  Charlotte  Bronte  the  impression  that  the  furniture 
had  been  put  there  to  make  room  for  the  more  costly  in  the 
lower  rooms.  It  is  possible  that  the  Greenwood  family  was  on 
visiting  terms  with  the  Grahams.  As  one  of  the  ancestral  homes 
of  Yorkshire  it  has  been  open  to  the  public  from  time  to  time. 

One  of  the  small  rooms  in  the  attic  is  shown  as  "  the  mad 
woman's  room,"  and  there  is  a  tradition  that  it  was  once 
occupied  by  an  insane  woman.  This  most  probably  gave  rise 
to  the  story  of  Bertha  Mason,  of  the  West  Indies. 

Bertha  Mason  is  probably  suggested  by  Charlotte  Bronte's 
first  school  friend  Mellany  Hane,  who  was  a  Creole. 

In  later  years,  Charlotte  Bronte  mentioned  more  than  once 
in  her  letters  how  unhappy  she  had  been  whilst  with  the 
Sidg wicks,  whom  she  described  as  "  proud  as  peacocks,  and 
wealthy  as  Jews."  Immediately  after  the  regular  governess 
returned  she  went  home,  disgusted  with  her  experience. 

There  is  no  doubt  that  she  was  unhappy  during  her  stay  at 
Stonegappe,  and  the  reason  is  not  far  to  seek.  In  a  letter  to 
Ellen  Nussey  she  once  said  :  "I  have  a  constant  tendency  to 
scorn  people  who  are  far  better  than  I  am."  On  the  other 
hand,  Mrs.  Sidg  wick — a  good  practical  Yorkshire  woman- 
could  not  enter  into  the  feelings  of  the  little  genius.  They  were 
poles  asunder  in  their  ideas  of  life,  and  the  fact  that  Charlotte 
could  say,  "  I  hate  and  abhor  the  very  thought  of  governess- 
ship,"  shows  that  it  was  not  likely  that  any  employer  would 
be  congenial  to  her.  It  is,  however,  just  as  well  that  teaching 
did  not  offer  a  satisfactory  sphere  of  work  to  her,  or  one  of 
the  greatest  novelists  of  the  nineteenth  century  might  have 
been  lost  to  the  world. 

Before  the  end  of  July,  1839,  Charlotte  Bronte  was  at  home 
again  and  Ellen  Nussey  was  trying  to  persuade  her  to  go  with 
her  to  the  sea-coast,  but  Aunt  Branwell  was  bent  on  a  journey 


A  SECOND   PROPOSAL  OF  MARRIAGE         151 

to  Liverpool  with  the  whole  family,  and  delays  came,  one  after 
the  other,  until  Charlotte  Bronte  lost  heart  and  felt  that  she 
and  Ellen  would  not  get  their  longed-for  holiday. 

At  this  time,  when  she  was  twenty-three  years  of  age,  she 
had  never  seen  the  sea,  and  she  was  keenly  desirous  of  carrying 
out  her  wish. 

"  The  idea  of  seeing  the  sea, —  of  being  near  it — watching 
its  changes  by  sunrise,  sunset,  moonlight  and  noonday — in 
calm,  perhaps  in  storm — fills  and  satisfies  my  mind." 

The  same  letter,  from  which  the  above  is  quoted,  contains 
an  account  of  a  second  proposal  of  marriage — 

"  I  have  an  odd  circumstance  to  relate  to  you  :     prepare 

for  a  hearty  laugh  !     The  other  day,  Mr.  ( ),  a  vicar, 

came  to  spend  the  day  with  us,  bringing  with  him  his  own 
curate.  The  latter  gentleman,  by  name  Mr.  B.,  is  a  young  Irish 
clergyman,  fresh  from  Dublin  University.  It  was  the  first  time 
we  had  any  of  us  seen  him,  but,  however,  after  the  manner  of 
his  countrymen,  he  soon  made  himself  at  home.  His  character 
appeared  quickly  in  his  conversation  ;  witty,  lively,  ardent, 
clever  too  ;  but  deficient  in  the  dignity  and  discretion  of  an 
Englishman.  At  home,  you  know,  I  talk  with  ease,  and  am 
never  shy — never  weighed  down  and  oppressed  by  that  miser- 
able mauvaise  honte  which  torments  and  constrains  me 
elsewhere.  So  I  conversed  with  the  Irishman,  and  laughed  at  his 
jests  ;  and,  though  I  saw  faults  in  his  character,  excused  them 
because  of  the  amusement  his  originality  afforded.  I  cooled  a 
little,  indeed,  and  drew  in  towards  the  latter  part  of  the 
evening,  because  he  began  to  season  his  conversation  with 
something  of  Hibernian  flattery,  which  I  did  not  quite  relish. 
However,  they  went  away,  and  no  more  was  thought  about 
them.  A  few  days  after  I  got  a  letter,  the  direction  of  which 
puzzled  me.  it  being  in  a  hand  I  was  not  accustomed  to  see. 
Evidently  it  was  neither  from  you  nor  Mary,  my  only  corre- 
spondents. Having  opened  and  read  it,  it  proved  to  be  a 
declaration  of  attachment  and  proposal  of  matrimony,  expressed 
in  the  ardent  language  of  the  sapient  young  Irishman  !  I  hope 
you  are  laughing  heartily.  This  is  not  like  one  of  my 


152      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

adventures,  is  it  ?  It  more  nearly  resembles  Martha's.  I  am 
certainly  doomed  to  be  an  old  maid.  Never  mind.  I  made  up 
my  mind  to  that  fate  ever  since  I  was  twelve  years  old. 

"  Well !  thought  I,  I  have  heard  of  love  at  first  sight,  but 
this  beats  all !  I  leave  you  to  guess  what  my  answer  would  be, 
convinced  that  you  will  not  do  me  the  injustice  of  guessing 
wrong." 

This  account  has  always  been  taken  literally,  but  as  a 
matter  of  fact  match-makers  had  again  been  at  work.  Emily 
Bronte,  however,  might  just  as  well  have  been  the  selected 
one,  if  she  had  shown  the  better  side  of  her  nature. 

The  Vicar  referred  to  in  the  letter  was  Mr.  Hodgson,  who  had 
been  Mr.  Bronte's  first  curate.  He  was  anxious  that  his  own 
young  curate,  Mr.  David  Bryce,  should  get  married,  and 
having  suggested  that  the  Vicar  of  Haworth  had  several 
eligible  daughters,  he  took  him  off  to  pay  a  call  at  the  Haworth 
Vicarage. 

Mr.  Bryce  went  quite  prepared  to  choose  one  of  the  daughters, 
and  as  Charlotte  Bronte  was  the  most  approachable,  he  natur- 
ally got  on  best  with  her,  and  with  an  Irishman's  ready 
enthusiasm  proposed  as  soon  as  possible.  Charlotte  Bronte 
does  not  tell  us  how  long  the  interval  was  between  the  visit 
and  the  proposal,  but  it  became  known  in  Haworth  that  the 
chief  reason  why  Charlotte  Bronte  and  the  young  curate  did 
not  become  engaged  was  that  Mr.  Bryce  was  consumptive,  and 
Charlotte  Bronte  herself  was  delicate,  too.  Mr.  Bronte  was 
consulted,  and  several  letters  passed  between  them,  but, 
knowing  that  his  daughters  inherited  their  mother's  frail 
constitution,  he  did  not  think  it  wise  for  his  daughter  to  marry 
a  delicate  man.  His  reasoning  was  quite  sound,  for,  in  less 
than  six  months  after  proposing  to  Charlotte  Bronte,  the  Rev. 
David  Bryce  died  at  Colne  and  was  buried  in  the  Christ  Church 
graveyard. 

The  second  offer  of  marriage,  which  Mrs.  Gaskell  refers  to 
as  "  uncommon  in  the  lot  of  most  women  "  and  as  "  a  testi- 
mony to  the  unusual  power  of  attraction  "  in  one  "  so  plain 
in  feature  "  is  not  quite  so  romantic  as  Mrs.  Gaskell  would  have 
us  believe. 


A  HOLIDAY  AT  THE  SEASIDE  153 

Ellen  Nussey  afterwards  renewed  her  attempts  to  get 
Charlotte  Bronte  to  accompany  her  to  the  seaside,  but  she 
was  not,  at  this  time,  successful.  Mr.  Bronte  himself  was 
willing,  but  Miss  Bran  well  was  reluctant  to  agree.  She  was 
always  harder  with  Charlotte  Bronte  than  Mr.  Bronte  himself. 
It  was  evidently  a  question  of  means,  and  the  result  was  that 
Miss  Nussey  was  invited  to  stay  at  the  Ha  worth  Vicarage, 
which  Charlotte  urged  would  be  less  costly  ;  but  Miss  Nussey 
was  determined  Charlotte  should  have  a  holiday,  and  the 
visit  to  Easton  and  Bridlington  was  arranged.  Thirty  years 
afterwards  Ellen  Nussey  wrote  an  interesting  account  of  this 
memorable  holiday. 

"  Charlotte's  first  visit  to  the  sea-coast  deserves  a  little 
more  notice  than  her  letters  give  of  the  circumstances — it  was 
an  event  eagerly  coveted,  but  hard  to  attain.  Mr.  Bronte 
and  Miss  Branwell  had  all  manners  of  doubts  and  fears  and 
cautions  to  express,  and  Charlotte  was  sinking  into  despair — 
there  seemed  only  one  chance  of  securing  her  the  pleasure  ; 
her  friend  must  fetch  her  ;  this  she  did  through  the  aid  of  a 
dear  relative,  who  sent  her  to  Haworth  under  safe  convoy,  and 
in  a  cairiage  that  would  bring  both  Charlotte  and  her  luggage — 
this  step  proved  to  be  the  very  best  thing  possible,  the  surprise 
was  so  good  in  its  effects,  there  was  nothing  to  combat — every- 
body rose  into  high  good  humours,  Branwell  was  grandilo- 
quent ;  he  declared  '  it  was  a  brave  defeat,  that  the  doubters 
were  fairly  taken  aback.'  You  have  only  to  will  a  thing  to 
get  it,  so  Charlotte's  luggage  was  speedily  prepared,  and  almost 
before  the  horse  was  rested  there  was  a  quiet  but  triumphant 
starting  ;  the  brothers  and  sisters  at  home  were  not  less 
happy  than  Charlotte  herself  in  her  now  secured  pleasure. 
It  was  the  first  of  real  freedom  to  be  enjoyed  either  by  herself 
or  her  friend,  a  first  experience  in  railway  travelling,  which, 
however,  only  conveyed  them  through  half  of  the  route,  the 

stage-coach  making  the  rest  of  the  journey They  walked 

to  the  sea,  and  as  soon  as  they  were  near  enough  for  Charlotte 
to  see  it  in  its  expanse,  she  was  quite  overpowered,  she  could 
not  speak  till  she  had  shed  some  tears — she  signed  to  her 
friend  to  leave  her  and  walk  on  \  this  she  did  for  a  few  steps, 


154       IN   THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

knowing  full  well  what  Charlotte  was  passing  through,  and 
the  stern  efforts  she  was  making  to  subdue  her  emotions — 
her  friend  turned  to  her  as  soon  as  she  thought  she  might 
without  inflicting  pain  ;  her  eyes  were  red  and  swollen,  she 
was  still  trembling,  but  submitted  to  be  led  onwards  where 
the  view  was  less  impressive  ;  for  the  remainder  of  the  day 
she  was  very  quiet,  subdued,  and  exhausted.  Distant  glimpses 
of  the  German  Ocean  had  been  visible  as  the  two  friends  neared 
the  coast  on  the  day  of  their  arrival,  but  Charlotte  being 
without  her  glasses,  could  not  see  them,  and  when  they  were 
described  to  her,  she  said,  '  Don't  tell  me  any  more.  Let  me 
wait.'  Whenever  the  sound  of  the  sea  reached  her  ears  in 
the  grounds  around  the  house  wherein  she  was  a  captive 
guest,  her  spirit  longed  to  run  away  and  be  close  to  it.  ... 

"  The  conventionality  of  most  of  the  seaside  visitors  amused 
Charlotte  immensely.  The  evening  Parade  on  the  Pier  struck 
her  as  the  greatest  absurdity.  It  was  an  old  Pier  in  those  days, 
and  of  short  dimensions,  but  thither  all  the  visitors  seemed  to 
assemble  in  such  numbers,  it  was  like  a  packed  ball-room  ; 
people  had  to  march  round  and  round  in  regular  file  to  secure 
any  movement  whatever." 

This  old  farm  at  Easton,  near  Bridlington,  is  still  in  exist- 
ence, but  it  is  in  a  dilapidated  condition.  A  friend  of  the 
writer's  wished  to  photograph  it  some  three  years  ago,  but 
was  not  allowed.  "What  would  the  landlord  think  of  it, 
I  wonder,  if  you  showed  a  photograph  of  this  old  place  as  it 
is  now  ?  "  said  the  tenant.  It  is  comforting  to  know  that 
there  is  a  water-colour  painting  of  it  by  Charlotte  Bronte 
herself,  and  there  is  also  an  oil-painting  of  the  farm,  by  a 
well-known  artist. 

Mr.  and  Mrs.  Hudson,  who  entertained  Ellen  Nussey  and 
Charlotte  Bronte,  at  Easton,  were,  in  after  years,  very  proud 
of  the  fact  that  they  had  Charlotte  Bronte  as  a  guest.  The 
water-colour  painting  of  the  farm  is  still  held  sacred  by  a 
member  of  the  Hudson  family,  but  the  letters  of  thanks  and 
the  slippers  worked  for  Mr.  Hudson  by  Charlotte  Bronte  have 
disappeared. 

The  walks  around  Easton  are  most  delightful,  and  Charlotte 


BRIDLINGTON  155 

Bronte"  very  much  enjoyed  her  month's  stay  with  the  family, 
which  included  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Hudson  and  their  niece,  Fanny 
Whipp,  who  was  then  a  child  of  eight  whom  Charlotte  Bronte 
called  "little  Hancheon."  This  holiday  stood  out  as  a  real 
bit  of  freedom  for  Charlotte  Bronte,  who  generally  got  the  best 
out  of  such  visits.  Again  and  again  she  refers  to  old  Burlington 
or  Bridlington,  as  it  is  now  called — 

"  Have  you  forgotten  the  sea  by  this  time,  Ellen  ?  Is  it 
grown  dim  in  your  mind  ?  Or  can  you  still  see  it,  dark,  blue, 
and  green,  and  foam- white,  and  hear  it  roaring  roughly  when 
the  wind  is  high,  or  rushing  softly  when  it  is  calm  ?  .  .  .  I  am 
as  well  as  need  be,  and  very  fat.  I  think  of  Easton  very  often, 
and  of  worthy  Mr.  Hudson  and  his  kind-hearted  helpmate, 
and  of  our  pleasant  walks  to  Harlequin  Wood,  and  to  Boynton, 
our  merry  evenings,  our  romps  with  little  Hancheon,  etc.,  etc. 
If  we  both  live,  this  period  of  our  lives  will  long  be  a  theme  for 
pleasant  recollection." 

Fanny  Whipp  is  said  to  have  suggested  Paulina  in  Villette, 
but  Paulina  has  affinity  with  Charlotte  Bronte's  own 
childhood,  in  so  far  as  she  was  little  for  her  age. 

Such  was  the  favourable  impression  made  on  Charlotte 
Bronte  by  her  visit  to  Easton  and  Burlington,  that  she  longed 
to  make  her  home  there,  and  in  later  days  she  planned  to  have 
a  school  in  the  vicinity,  to  be  managed  by  her  sister  and 
herself — 

"  In  thinking  of  all  possible  and  impossible  places  where 
we  could  establish  a  school,  I  have  thought  of  Burlington,  or 
rather  of  the  neighbourhood  of  Burlington.  ...  I  fancy  the 
ground  in  the  East  Riding  is  less  fully  occupied  than  in  the 
West." 

She  employed  part  of  her  time  when  at  Easton  in  writing 
and  drawing,  and  on  a  subsequent  visit,  ten  years  afterwards, 
when  Anne  Bronte  had  just  been  buried  in  Scarborough 
churchyard,  Charlotte  Bronte  went  to  kind  Mrs.  Hudson's 
for  rest  and  quiet,  before  going  home  to  her  father  at  Ha  worth. 
It  is  possible  that  the  chapter  in  Shirley,  headed  "  The  valley 
of  the  shadow  of  death,"  was  written  there,  for  the  genial 


156       IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF   THE   BRONTES 

farmer  and  his  wife  remembered  that  she  often  took  her  writing 
material  into  the  garden  and  wrote  for  hours. 

She  never  forgot  the  kindness  of  these  Easton  friends,  and 
she  sent  them  several  presents.  One  was  a  painting  of  Mrs. 
Hudson,  whose  maiden  name  was  Sophia  Whipp;  a  Mrs. 
Whipp  figures  in  Shirley  as  the  landlady  of  Mr.  Sweeting  of 
Nunnerly.  In  the  painting  of  the  farm  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Hudson 
are  seated  in  the  garden,  and  as  a  flock  of  birds  passed  by 
Mr.  Hudson  remarked,  "  Be  sure  you  put  the  crows  in,  Miss 
Bronte." 


CHAPTER  XII 

BRANWELL  BRONTE  AND  THE  CURATES  AT  HAWORTH 

1839-1842 

BRANWELL  BRONTE  obtains  an  appointment  as  tutor — His  journey  to 
Broughton-in-Furness — Account  of  his  life  at  Broughton — Rev. 
Patrick  Bronte's  mode  of  life  at  Haworth — Mr.  Leyland's  Bronte 
Family — Branwell  Bronte  becomes  a  clerk  near  Halifax — Sowerby 
Bridge  and  Luddenden  Foot — His  life  as  a  railway  clerk — Charlotte 
Bronte's  unflagging  industry — The  Curates  at  Haworth. 

BRANWELL  secured  an  appointment  on  the  1st  of  January, 
1840,  as  private  tutor  at  a  Mr.  Postlethwaite's,  at  Broughton- 
in-Furness,  in  Cumberland.  He  had  had  a  little  experience 
as  an  usher  in  a  school  near  Halifax  some  two  years  previously, 
but  he  had  not  remained  long  at  the  school.  Both  the  father 
and  aunt  were  disappointed  with  Branwell's  failure  to  make 
for  himself  a  position  in  life,  and  it  was  even  suggested  that  he 
should  qualify  for  holy  orders,  for  which  the  office  of  teacher 
was  considered  to  be  a  suitable  preparation,  as  was  the  case 
with  his  father. 

Like  some  other  misguided  parents,  Mr.  Bronte  assumed  that, 
when  all  other  openings  in  life  failed,  his  son  might  turn  his 
attention  to  the  Church ;  but  Branwell,  much  to  his  credit, 
declined  to  consider  the  sacred  ministry  as  a  possible  sphere 
of  work,  and  afterwards,  writing  sarcastically  to  his  friend 
Mr.  Grundy,  he  stated  that  the  only  qualification  he  had  for 
the  ministry  was  a  certain  amount  of  hypocrisy. 

At  Broughton-in-Furness  Branwell  had  a  comfortable 
appointment  with  a  highly  respectable  family,  and  those  left 
behind  at  the  Vicarage  hoped  he  would  do  well,  though 
Charlotte,  who  was  always  the  farseeing  member  of  the  family, 
appears  to  have  had  some  doubts.  She  writes — 

"  One  thing,  however,  will  make  the  daily  routine  more 
unvaried  than  ever.  Branwell,  who  lived  to  enliven  us  is  to 
leave  us  in  a  few  days  and  enter  the  situation  of  a  private 
tutor  in  the  neighbourhood  of  Ulverston.  How  he  will  like 

157 


158       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

to  settle  remains  yet  to  be  seen.  At  present  he  is  full  of  hope 
and  resolution.  I,  who  know  his  variable  nature,  and  his 
strong  turn  for  active  life,  dare  not  be  too  sanguine." 

Evidently  the  members  of  the  family  were  anxious  to  get 
Bran  well  away  from  the  associations  of  the  Black  Bull,  where 
the  masonic  "  Lodge  of  the  Three  Graces,"  of  which  Bran  well 
was  secretary,  held  its  meetings. 

On  the  Christmas  day  previous  to  starting  for  Broughton-in- 
Furness,  Branwell  acted  as  organist,  and  in  the  minute  book 
of  the  Masonic  register  at  Haworth,  Bran  well's  name  appears 
for  the  last  time.  Although,  no  doubt,  he  made  many  good 
resolutions,  he  could  not  get  from  Haworth  to  Ulverston 
without  joining  with  a  drunken  set  of  travellers  at  the  Royal 
Hotel,  Kendal.  If  this  had  been  found  out,  it  would  most 
likely  have  cost  him  his  appointment  before  he  had  really 
entered  upon  his  duties. 

The  late  Mr.  Francis  A.  Leyland,  of  Halifax,  in  his  Bronte 
Family,  published  in  1886,  tries  to  excuse  Branwell,  but  a 
letter  written  by  Branwell  himself  reveals  a  man  devoid  of 
ordinary  virtues,  though  in  the  earlier  part  of  the  letter  there 
is  evidence  of  some  intention  to  reform.  It  seems  a  pity  that 
this  versatile  young  man  of  so  many  gifts  could  not  be  kept 
healthily  employed  away  from  his  former  associates. 

This  damaging  letter  was  written  to  Mr.  John  Brown,  the 
sexton,  one  of  whose  daughters  admitted  to  me  that  her 
father  "  liked  his  glass/'  and  was  much  to  blame  for  "  leading 
young  Branwell  on."  Branwell  loved  a  joke,  and  in  order  to 
cause  amusement,  he  did  not  mind  becoming  "  the  fool  for 
the  company."  John  Brown  was  fond  of  telling  of  Branwell's 
cleverness,  and  like  others  in  Haworth,  he  expected  that 
Branwell  would  ultimately  bring  much  credit  to  the  Haworth 
Vicarage  after  "he  had  sown  his  wild  oats."  No  one  was 
more  sorry,  when  Branwell  died,  than  the  Haworth  sexton, 
and  it  is  in  some  respects  unfortunate  that  this  letter  to  John 
Brown  was  not  destroyed,  for  Miss  Robinson,  in  her  mono- 
graph on  Emily  Bronte,  only  quoted  from  a  memorised  copy, 
omitting  the  postscript,  "Write  directly.  Of  course,  you 
won't  show  this  letter,  and  for  Heaven's  sake,  blot  out  all 


ONE  OF  BRANWELL  BRONTE'S  LETTERS     159 

lines  scored  with  red  ink."  The  original  was  said,  by  the  sex- 
ton's family,  to  have  been  lost  in  the  early  seventies,  but  one 
of  the  Browns  knew  it  by  heart,  and  it  was  this  version,  which 
got  into  the  possession  of  Mr.  Wood,  the  local  carpenter,  that 
Miss  Robinson  used.  But  before  the  original  was  lost,  one  of 
Branwell's  friends  had  made  an  accurate  copy,  taking  care 
to  blot  out  the  names  of  certain  people  in  Haworth,  whose 
families  are  still  well  known  in  the  village,  and  it  was  this 
reproduction  that  the  late  Mr.  Francis  A.  Leyland,  of  Halifax, 
used  in  his  Bronte  Family.  The  letter  was  written  some  ten 
weeks  after  Branwell  left  Haworth,  and  was  addressed  to  the 
sexton  who  was  referred  to  as  "  Old  Knave  of  Trumps." 

Everyone  who  knew  Branwell,  except  the  members  of  his 
family,  had  an  opportunity  of  reading  this  unfortunate  com- 
munication, and  John  Brown's  brother  prided  himself  on  being 
able  to  repeat  the  whole  of  it  from  memory.  Branwell's 
friends  did  not  take  the  letter  so  seriously  as  the  biographers 
of  the  Brontes  have  done,  for  the  simple  reason  that  they 
knew  the  writer.  At  home  he  was  allowed  great  liberty,  and 
it  was  expected  that  he  would  escape  all  contamination  ; 
whilst  care  was  exercised  in  determining  the  friends  of  the 
girls,  he  was  allowed  in  the  main  to  go  his  own  way.  He  had 
neither  the  balance  of  mind  nor  the  strength  that  his  father 
possessed  ;  nor  could  he  claim  that  dignity  and  reserve  which 
always  proved  useful  to  the  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte. 

Branwell,  much  to  his  own  disgust,  was,  like  Charlotte, 
small  and  insignificant  in  appearance,  and  the  Haworth 
people  were  fond  of  saying  that  he  brushed  his  hair  high  to 
give  him  a  few  extra  inches.  Although  many  people  thought 
him  conceited,  he  was  the  most  approachable  in  the  family, 
and  was  always  welcome  wherever  he  went. 

The  Vicar  could  often  be  seen  visiting  his  parishioners,  some 
at  a  great  distance  across  the  moors,  but  father  and  son  were 
rarely  seen  together.  Previous  to  going  to  Brought  on, 
Branwell  was  secretary  of  a  temperance  society,  and  it  is  only 
fair  to  say  that  certain  efforts  were  made  to  keep  him  from 
drink. 
After  the  death  of  Patrick  Bronte's  wife  in  1820,  when  Branwell 


160      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONT&S 

was  a  boy  of  three,  the  father  seems  to  have  lived  somewhat 
the  life  of  a  recluse,  and,  whilst  omitting  no  duty  connected 
with  his  church,  he  left  his  children  far  too  much  to  themselves. 
The  girls  found  companionship  with  each  other,  but  it  was 
difficult  to  find  a  place  for  an  only  boy  in  such  a  home.  It 
is  not,  therefore,  a  matter  for  surprise  that  Branwell  never 
acquired  sufficient  self-control  or  will  power  to  steer  a  clear 
course  in  his  brief  career.  Even  to  this  day,  however,  he  is 
remembered  with  pride,  not  unmixed  with  pity,  in  his  native 
village.  Only  the  other  day,  an  old  man  in  Haworth  who 
remembered  Branwell,  said,  "  Mrs.  Gaskell  told  a  pack  o'  lies 
about  him."  His  silly  letter  to  his  old  friend  probably  was 
more  highly  coloured  than  was  necessary,  and,  like  Charlotte, 
he  wrote  with  much  enthusiasm  and  a  tendency  to  undue 
exaggeration. 

He  had  the  gift  of  imagination  like  his  sisters,  and  not 
unfrequently  he  would  romance  about  incidents  for  the  mere 
pleasure  of  entertaining  and  "  showing  off "  to  his  friends. 

A  letter  not  only  betrays  the  character  of  the  writer,  but 
sometimes  gives  some  indication  of  the  character  of  the  receiver. 
This  epistle  could  only  have  been  written  to  friends  who 
delighted  in  hearing  what  may  be  described  as  "  spicy  "  news. 

Like  everything  else  that  is  associated  with  the  Brontes, 
BranwelPs  letter  was  greatly  discussed,  though,  if  Charlotte  and 
Emily  Bronte"  had  not  become  famous  novelists,  the  letter 
would  soon  have  passed  into  oblivion. 

Branwell  has  suffered  probably  more  than  any  member  of 
the  family  owing  to  contrast  with  his  two  brilliant  sisters, 
and  he  has  received  more  blame  than  he  deserved  from  those 
who  have  followed  Mrs.  Gaskell  and  Harriet  Martineau  in 
attributing  to  him  "  the  coarseness  of  Charlotte  Bronte's 
novels."  "  Because  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  was  what  he 
was,  the  Bronte  novels  were  what  they  were,"  but  that  is  not 
so ;  Branwell  was  not  a  "  brainless  sot,"  as  Mr.  Shorter  describes 
him  ;  probably  Mr.Nicholls  gave  Mr.  Shorter  that  impression, 
but,  as  he  did  not  know  him  well  until  after  his  dismissal  from 
Thorpe  Green,  even  he  was  not  able  to  judge.  The  Haworth 
people  well  remember  his  tramping  the  moorland  district,  gun 


BROUGHTON-IN-FURNESS  161 

in  hand  ;  for,  like  his  father,  he  loved  shooting.  A  military 
career,  with  its  necessary  discipline,  might  have  suited  him, 
but  his  shortness  of  stature  was  an  insuperable  obstacle. 

Mr.  Francis  A.  Leyland's  Bronte  Family  is  worthy  of  recogni- 
tion, because  he  gave  the  better  side  of  Bran  well's  life.  But  one 
of  BranwelPs  letters,  published  in  the  Yorkshire  Observer  in 
November,  1911,  proves  that  Bran  well  had  contracted  debts 
when  in  Bradford,  which  Mr.  Leyland  denies.  Ellen  Nussey 
thought  he  had  conveyed  a  too  favourable  impression  of 
Bran  well,  and  had  not  shown  sufficient  appreciation  of  Charlotte, 
and  for  that  reason  she  proposed  to  tell  the  true  story  of 
Charlotte  Bronte  through  her  letters.  None  of  the  biographers 
suited  Ellen  Nussey,  and  unfortunately  she  was  not  capable 
of  writing  a  Life  herself. 

Broughton-in-Furness  is  a  beautiful  district  on  the  northern 
shores  of  Morecambe  Bay,  and  Bran  well  seems  to  have  been 
impressed  by  the  charm  of  the  place,  for  some  of  his  crude 
oil-paintings  are  of  the  district  around  Black  Comb.  Whilst 
there,  he  came  under  the  influence  of  the  Lake  District  associa- 
tions. Like  Charlotte,  he  had  always  been  attracted  by 
Wordsworth's  poems  on  nature,  and  he  was  devoted  to  Coleridge 
and  Christopher  North.  Before  going  to  Broughton-in- 
Furness,  Bran  well  had  written  to  Wordsworth  in  1837,  and 
also  to  Hartley  Coleridge,  and  whilst  living  in  Broughton  he 
paid  at  least  one  visit  to  Hartley  Coleridge.  Mrs.  Gaskell  saw 
his  letter,  when  she  was  staying  in  the  Lake  District  many 
years  afterwards,  for  although  Wordsworth  was  disgusted  with 
Bran  well's  letter  and  did  not  answer  the  "  would-be  "  poet, 
he  kept  his  letter,  and  when  the  name  of  Bronte  became 
famous  it  was  given  to  Mr.  Quillinan,  Wordsworth's 
son-in-law,  who  showed  it  to  Mrs.  Gaskell. 

At  a  distance  of  some  four  or  five  miles  from  Broughton-in- 
Furness  is  a  hill  known  as  Black  Comb,  which  overlooks  the 
small  seaside  village  of  Silecroft.  It  is  probable  that  Bran  well 
climbed  the  Black  Comb,  for  he  composed  a  short  poem  about 
it,  as  it  appeared  to  him  in  the  distance. 

"  Far  off,  and  half  revealed,  'mid  shade  and  light, 
Black  Comb  half  smiles,  half  frowns." 

XI — (2300) 


162      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Evidently  he  knew  Wordsworth's  fine  description  of  the  view 
from  the  summit  of  the  Black  Comb,  which  is  one  of  great 
beauty  on  every  side.  Branwell,  like  his  father,  was  no  poet, 
though  he  liked  to  flatter  himself  that  he  was,  and  he  wrote 
several  vain  letters  to  Wordsworth,  Coleridge,  and  the  editor 
of  Blackwood's  Magazine. 

Mrs.  Oliphant  says  that  Blackwoods  probably  thought  the 
letters  were  from  a  madman,  and  so  they  never  replied  to  them. 
At  the  same  time,  they  felt  sufficiently  interested  to  preserve 
them,  and  because  they  were  written  by  a  member  of  the 
Bronte  family,  and  not  at  all  for  their  intrinsic  value,  they 
appear  in  Mrs.  Oliphant's  book,  The  House  of  Blackwood. 

Branwell  left  Broughton-in-Furness  at  the  end  of  six  months, 
it  is  said  at  his  father's  desire,  and  his  next  appointment  was 
as  a  clerk  on  the  Leeds  and  Manchester  railway,  first  at 
Sowerby  Bridge  and  then  at  Luddenden  Foot.  Charlotte 
writes  of  him,  when  in  one  of  her  gay  humours — 

"A  distant  relation  of  mine,  one  Patrick  Boanerges,  [Mrs. 
Gaskell  puts  'Patrick  Branwell,'  showing  that  she  knew  it 
referred  to  the  brother]  has  set  off  to  seek  his  fortune  in  the 
wild,  wandering,  adventurous,  romantic,  knight-errant-like 
capacity  of  clerk  on  the  Leeds  and  Manchester  Railroad. 
Leeds  and  Manchester — where  are  they  ?  Cities  in  the  wilderness 
like  Tadmor,  alias  Palmyra — are  they  not  ?  " 

Sowerby  Bridge  and  Luddenden  Foot  are  only  a  mile  apart, 
and,  although  the  appointment  which  Branwell  had  obtained 
was  uncongenial  and  unsuitable,  the  district  was  one  that 
ought  to  have  inspired  his  mind,  and  provided  material  for 
the  novels  he  proposed  to  write.  Mr.  Leyland  says  he  did 
write  at  least  one  volume. 

The  district  is  still  recognised  as  a  holiday  resort  for  picnic 
parties.  Hardcastle  Crags,  near  by,  is  well  worth  a  visit, 
and  Hebden  Bridge,  with  its  Golden  Valley,  Sowerby, 
Mytholmroyd  and  Erringden  have  pretty  surroundings. 
Erringden  was  a  royal  deer  park  in  the  time  of  the  Plantagenets. 
Hebden  Bridge  is  a  pleasant  walk  from  Haworth  in  summer 
over  the  moors,  and  the  frugal  Yorkshiremen,  anxious  to  visit 


BRANWELL   BRONTE  AS  A   RAILWAY  CLERK    163 

Manchester  or  other  towns  on  the  Lancashire  side  of  the 
Pennine  Range,  often  make  this  journey  to  Hebden  Bridge, 
thus  saving  the  cost  of  the  roundabout  railway  route  through 
Keighley  and  Halifax.  Charlotte  Bronte,  in  the  lonely  days 
before  her  marriage,  would  sometimes  walk,  or  occasionally 
drive  to  Sowerby  Bridge,  where  lived  the  Rev.  Sutcliffe  Sowden, 
who  had  the  honour  of  performing  the  marriage  ceremony 
between  Charlotte  Bronte  and  Mr.  Nicholls. 

The  valley  of  Hebden  is  beautifully  wooded,  and  Charlotte 
Bronte  was  very  fond  of  this  district  and  also  that  of  Hepton- 
stall,  where  there  is  an  old  church  of  St.  Thomas  of  Canterbury. 
One  of  the  smaller  glens  is  known  as  Crimsworth,  which 
furnished  the  name  to  the  English  teacher  in  The  Professor. 

William  Crimsworth  had  for  his  original  Charlotte  Bronte 
herself,  and  this  was  her  first  attempt  to  masquerade  as  a  man. 
Mr.  Francis  A.  Leyland  considers  that  Bran  well  was  the  original 
of  Crimsworth  in  the  earlier  chapters,  where  Crimsworth  is  in 
a  manufacturer's  office.  Bran  well  may  have  suggested  the 
poorly  paid  clerk,  but,  when  he  gets  to  Brussels,  Crimsworth 
is  undoubtedly  Charlotte  herself. 

The  rush  of  water  from  the  surrounding  heights  beneath 
the  Hardcastle  Crags,  on  its  way  to  the  river  Calder  at  Hebden 
Bridge,  was  a  sight  that  appealed  to  Charlotte  and  Emily 
Bronte,  just  as  the  roar  of  the  sea  did  at  Bridlington,  and 
after  her  marriage  she  and  Mr.  Nicholls  were  fond  of  walking 
over  the  moor  to  see  the  Hebden  Bridge  district,  and  also  to 
visit  the  incumbent  of  Mytholm  at  his  home  at  Hanging  Royd, 
Hebden  Bridge.  Mr.  Sutcliffe  Sowden  knew  Bran  well  Bronte 
when  he  was  engaged  at  Sowerby  station  and  at  Luddenden 
Foot,  and  sometimes  he  walked  over  to  the  wooden  shed, 
which  did  duty  for  the  railway  clerk's  office.  Like  many  of 
his  friends,  Mr.  Sowden  was  sorry  for  the  youth,  who  never 
found  his  right  sphere  of  work. 

It  is  pleasant  at  this  time  to  turn  to  Mr.  Francis  A.  Ley  land's 
description  of  the  unfortunate  youth  as  he  knew  him  at  this  time. 

"  It  was  on  a  bright  Sunday  afternoon  in  the  autumn  of  1840, 
at  the  desire  of  my  brother,  the  sculptor,  that  I  accompanied 
him  to  the  station  at  Sowerby  Bridge  to  see  Bran  well.  The 


164       IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS   OF  THE   BRONTES 

young  railway  clerk  was  of  gentleman -like  appearance,  and 
seemed  to  be  qualified  for  a  much  better  position  than  the  one 
he  had  chosen.  In  stature  he  was  a  little  below  the  middle 
height.  ...  He  was  slim  and  agile  in  figure,  yet  of  well- 
formed  outline  .  His  complexion  was  clear  and  ruddy,  and  the 
expression  of  his  face,  at  the  time,  lightsome  and  cheerful.  His 
voice  had  a  ringing  sweetness,  and  the  utterance  and  use  of  his 
English  were  perfect.  Bran  well  appeared  to  be  in  excellent 
spirits,  and  showed  none  of  those  traces  of  intemperance  with 
which  some  writers  have  unjustly  credited  him  about  this 
period  of  his  life."1 

Others  who  lived  near  to  Sowerby  Bridge,  and  who  met 
Branwell  about  this  time,  testified  to  his  uniformly  good  con- 
duct and  respectable  appearance.  After  being  at  Sowerby 
Bridge  for  a  few  months,  he  was  transferred  to  Luddenden 
Foot,  a  new  station  about  a  mile  away.  Mr.  Francis  H.  Grundy, 
who  was  assistant  engineer  on  the  line  when  Branwell  was  at 
Luddenden  Foot,  wrote  in  his  Pictures  of  the  Past,  "  Had  a 
position  been  chosen  for  this  strange  creature,  for  the  express 
purpose  of  driving  him  several  steps  to  the  bad,  this  must 
have  been  it." 

Unfortunately  Luddenden  Foot  was  a  small  village  with 
practically  no  suitable  society  for  Branwell  Bronte,  and  the 
two  public  houses — The  Red  Lion  and  The  Anchor — proved 
an  attraction  which  he  could  not  resist.  He  had  not  sufficient 
work  fully  to  employ  his  time,  and  with  his  want  of  "  balance  " 
he  quickly  deteriorated.  If  he  could  have  met  with  some  good 
friend  to  take  him  in  hand,  he  might  have  been  saved. 

Branwell  soon  began  to  neglect  his  duties,  and  often  left 
the  young  porter  to  attend  to  the  station  whilst  he  visited 
Halifax.  As  might  be  expected,  this  could  not  be  continued 
but  for  a  short  time,  and  he  was  dismissed.  His  books  were 
found  to  be  in  an  unsatisfactory  state,  and  the  margins  were 
covered  with  sketches  and  drawings.  When  he  returned  home, 
Charlotte  and  Anne  were  away,  and  Emily  was  his  only  friend ; 
she  pitied  him  and  refrained  from  scolding  him,  though 
conscious  of  his  faults. 

1  The  Bronte  Family,  by  Francis  A.  Leyland. 


CHARLOTTE'S   UNFLAGGING   INDUSTRY        165 

Whilst  Branwell  had  been  at  Sowerby  Bridge  and  Lud- 
denden  Foot,  Charlotte  had  been  working  hard  at  French. 
Her  replies  to  advertisements  for  a  private  governess  had  not 
at  first  been  successful,  and  by  the  kindness  of  her  friends  at 
Gomersal — the  Taylors  of  Red  House — she  had  got  the  loan 
of  a  number  of  French  novels  which  she  describes  as  "  another 
bale  of  books,  containing  upwards  of  forty  volumes.  I 
have  read  about  half,"  she  writes  at  this  time,  "  They  are 
like  the  rest — clever,  wicked,  sophistical  and  immoral.  The 
best  of  it  is,  they  give  one  a  thorough  idea  of  France  and  Paris, 
and  are  the  best  substitute  for  French  conversation."  It  was 
one  of  the  ambitions  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  life  to  see  the 
French  capital. 

If  there  was  one  virtue  more  than  any  other  which  stood  out 
in  Charlotte  Bronte's  character,  it  was  her  unflagging  industry. 
She  was  never  idle,  and  more  than  any  other  member  of  the 
family  she  took  advantage  of  every  opportunity  to  improve 
her  qualifications.  She  was  attached  to  the  quiet  home  life, 
but  she  felt  that  it  was  necessary  that  she  should  contribute 
to  the  family  exchequer. 

"  Verily,  it  is  a  delightful  thing  to  live  at  home,  at  full  liberty 
to  do  just  what  one  pleases.  But  I  recollect  some  scrubby  old 
fable  about  grasshoppers  and  ants,  by  a  scrubby  old  knave, 
yclept  JEsop  ;  the  grasshoppers  sang  all  the  summer  and 
starved  all  the  winter,"  she  writes  to  Ellen  Nussey. 

It  was  about  this  time  that  Mr.  Bronte  obtained  help  in  his 
church  work ;  hitherto  he  had  been  single-handed.  His 
first  curate,  the  Rev.  William  Hodgson,  seems  to  have  given 
his  services  without  remuneration  from  the  parish  of  Haworth 
from  1837  to  1838.  The  second  curate,  Mr.  William  Weightman, 
was  at  Haworth  from  1839  to  1842  ;  he  caused  quite  a  flutter 
amongst  the  women  at  the  Parsonage,  for,  with  the  exception 
of  a  visit  now  and  again  from  the  neighbouring  clergy,  few 
men  entered  the  Haworth  Vicarage,  so  that,  when  "  Papa  had 
a  curate  of  his  own,"  life  at  the  Parsonage  became  less  mono- 
tonous. Charlotte  Bronte,  who  loved  change,  was  delighted, 
whilst  Emily  seems  somewhat  to  have  resented  the  intrusion 


166       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

of  the  curates.  Miss  Bran  well  found  a  certain  amount  of 
pleasure  in  welcoming  one  more  member  of  the  cloth  to  the 
hospitality  of  the  parsonage,  whilst  Anne — modest  and  demure 
— felt  some  diffidence  in  meeting  with  one  of  the  opposite  sex. 

It  might  have  been  better  for  Branwell  Bronte  if  his  father 
had  engaged  a  curate  at  an  earlier  period.  Mr.  Weigh tman 
and  Branwell  seem  to  have  been  very  friendly  to  each  other 
and  were  in  the  habit  of  corresponding  when  either  was  away 
from  Ha  worth. 

Charlotte  Bronte  has  plenty  to  say  to  Ellen  Nussey  about 
the  gay,  young  curate,  who  formed  the  subject  of  much  corre- 
spondence between  the  two  friends.  Afterwards  it  was 
discovered  that  he  was  a  flirt,  who  experienced  no  difficulty 
in  transferring  his  affections  from  one  girl  to  another.  The 
innocent  banter  which  went  on  shows  that  the  Bronte  girls 
formed  a  merry  party,  and  Charlotte  especially  was  not  the 
melancholy  person  which  Mrs.  Gaskell  pictures.  The  curate 
rather  enjoyed  the  badinage  of  these  girls,  who  loved  to  tease 
him,  and  he  did  not  resent  Charlotte's  drawings  of  his  lady- 
loves, nor  did  he  mind  her  scoldings  when  he  got  a  new  fiancee. 
Possibly  at  Ellen  Nus«ey's  request,  Mrs.  Gaskell  left  out  from 
Charlotte  Bronte's  letters  all  the  references  to  Mr.  Weightman, 
except  the  account  of  his  visiting  one  of  her  Sunday  School 
scholars  and  his  sermon  about  Dissent. 

When  Mrs.  Gaskell's  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte  was  published, 
the  old  friends  of  the  curate  wondered  that  more  was  not 
included  about  this  amiable  young  clergyman,  who  was  known 
to  have  been  popular  at  the  Vicarage,  for  they  could  remember 
seeing  him  walking  over  the  moors  with  the  Vicar's  daughters. 
It  could  not  be  said  that  many  of  the  curates  enjoyed  this 
privilege  ;  as  a  rule  they  were  ignored. 

Emily  Bronte'  got  the  soubriquet  of  "Major"  at  this  time, 
because  she  determinedly  guarded  Ellen  Nussey  from  Mr. 
Weightman's  attentions,  and  insisted  on  walking  with  her, 
rather  than  let  the  young  curate  have  the  honour  of  Ellen's 
company.  It  is  possible  that  she  took  this  course  because 
Mr.  Weightman  had  paid  some  attention  to  Anne  Bronte, 
and  Emily  wished  to  safeguard  the  interests  of  her  sister. 


REV.  WILLIAM  WEIGHTMAN  167 

Charlotte  tells  us  that  it  was  a  picture  to  see  the  curate  making 
"  sheep's  eyes  "  at  Anne,  as  she  sat  in  the  family  pew.  It 
was  this  versatile  curate  who  discovered  that  the  Bronte  girls 
had  never  received  a  valentine,  and  in  order  to  give  them  a  little 
innocent  pleasure  he  walked  to  Bradford  to  post  three  precious 
missives.  Of  course,  they  soon  guessed  where  they  were  from, 
and  gave  Mr.  Weightman  "  a  Roland  for  his  Oliver."  Some 
of  the  neighbouring  clergy  also  joined  in  the  fun  of  sending 
valentines  to  the  Bronte  girls,  for  in  the  Whitehaven  News 
there  was  a  copy  of  the  return  valentine  sent  by  Charlotte 
Bronte  to  one  of  the  clergy  of  the  district  in  1840.  It  had  been 
kept  as  a  souvenir  of  those  happy  days  when  Charlotte  was 
quite  unconsciously  gathering  the  material  for  her  portraits 
of  the  curates  who  come  on  the  scene  so  quickly  in  Shirley, 
which  made  Charles  Kingsley  close  the  book  with  the 
determination  to  read  no  more. 

Charlotte  sent  a  poem  of  eleven  verses,  the  first  and  second 
verses  read — 

"A  Roland  for  your  Oliver 

We  think  you've  just  earned ; 
You  sent  us  such  a  valentine, 
Your  gift  is  now  returned. 

We  cannot  write  or  talk  like  you ; 

We're  plain  folks  every  one ; 
You've  played  a  clever  jest  on  us, 

We  thank  you  for  the  fun. 

(Signed)    CHARLOTTE  BRONT£." 

February,  1840. 

Mr.  Weightman  was  known  as  Celia  Amelia  at  the  Parsonage. 
Ellen  Nussey,  in  a  foot-note  to  her  volume  of  Charlotte  Bronte's 
Letters,  compiled  by  Mr.  J.  Horsfall  Turner,  gives  a  short 
account  of  Mr.  Weightman. 

"Celia  Amelia,  Mr.  Bronte's  curate,  a  lively,  handsome 
young  man  fresh  from  Durham  University,  an  excellent 
classical  scholar.  He  gave  a  very  good  lecture  on  the  Classics 
at  Keighley.  The  young  ladies  at  the  Parsonage  must  hear  his 
lecture,  so  he  went  off  to  a  married  clergyman  to  get  him  to 
write  to  Mr.  Bronte  to  invite  the  young  ladies  to  tea,  and  offer 


168       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

his  escort  to  the  lecture,  and  back  again  to  the  Parsonage. 
Great  fears  were  entertained  that  permission  would  not  be 
given — it  was  a  walk  of  four  miles  each  way.  The  Parsonage 
was  not  reached  till  12  p.m.  The  two  clergymen  rushed  in 
with  their  charges,  deeply  disturbing  Miss  Branwell,  who  had 
prepared  hot  coffee  for  the  home  party,  which  of  coarse  fell 
short  when  two  more  were  to  be  supplied.  Poor  Miss  Branwell 
lost  her  temper,  Charlotte  was  troubled,  and  Mr.  Weightman, 
who  enjoyed  teasing  the  old  lady,  was  very  thirsty.  The  great 
spirits  of  the  walking  party  had  a  trying  suppression,  but 
twinkling  fun  sustained  some  of  the  party. 

"There  was  also  a  little  episode  as  to  valentines.  Mr. 
Weightman  discovered  that  none  of  the  party  had  ever  received 
a  valentine — a  great  discovery  !  Whereupon  he  indited  verses 
to  each  one,  and  walked  ten  miles  to  post  them,  lest  Mr.  Bronte 
should  discover  his  dedicatory  nonsense,  and  the  quiet  liveliness 
going  on  under  the  sedate  espionage  of  Miss  Branwell  and 
Mr.  Bronte  himself.  Then  I  recall  the  taking  of  Mr.  Weight- 
man's  portrait  by  Charlotte.  The  sittings  became  alarming 
for  length  of  time  required,  and  the  guest  had  to  adopt  the 
gown,  which  the  owner  was  very  proud  to  exhibit,  amusing  the 
party  with  his  critical  remarks  on  the  materials  used,  and 
pointing  out  the  adornments,  silk,  velvet,  etc." 

Evidently  Ellen  Nussey  had  enlightened  Mrs.  Gaskell  as  to 
the  Celia  Amelia  of  the  letters,  as  she  puts  Mr.  Weightman 
where  Charlotte  Bronte  had  written  Celia  Amelia.  Mr.  Bronte 
managed  to  live  on  good  terms  with  the  Dissenters  in  Haworth, 
but  just  about  the  time  that  Mr.  Weightman  came  there  was 
a  certain  amount  of  opposition  to  church  rates,  and  a  stormy 
meeting  was  held  in  the  Parish  Church  room,  to  which  the 
Dissenters  were  invited. 

This  was  followed  by  two  sermons  preached  in  the  church  ; 
one  by  Mr.  Weightman,  "  a  noble,  eloquent,  High-church 
Apostolical-Succession  discourse,  in  which  he  banged  the 
Dissenters  most  fearlessly  and  unflinchingly,"  and  another 
sermon  on  the  same  subject,  by  a  Mr.  Collins,  a  neighbouring 
clergyman.  Charlotte  Bronte's  conclusion  of  the  two  sermons 
shows  her  passion  for  justice.  "  Mais,  if  I  were  a  Dissenter, 


DEATH  OF  MR.  WEIGHTMAN  169 

I  would  have  taken  the  first  opportunity  of  kicking  or  of  horse- 
whipping both  the  gentlemen  for  their  stern,  bitter  attack  on 
my  religion  and  its  teachers." 

Mr.  Weightman  died  during  the  third  year  of  his  curacy. 
Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte  were  at  Brussels  at  the  time,  and 
Anne  was  at  Thorpe  Green  ;  only  Bran  well  was  at  home, 
and  he  watched  by  the  bedside  of  his  friend,  and  felt  his  death 
keenly.  The  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte  preached  the  funeral  sermon 
in  Ha  worth  Parish  Church  on  Sunday,  2nd  October,  1842,  when 
the  church  was  crowded,  but  only  Branwell  sat  in  the  Parsonage 
pew,  as  Aunt  Branwell  was  ill  at  home. 

Charlotte  Bronte's  letters  reveal  a  rather  frivolous  young 
man,  and  it  is  well  to  have  the  Vicar's  opinion — 

"  There  are  many,  who  for  a  short  time  can  please,  and  even 
astonish — but  who  soon  retrograde  and  fall  into  disrepute. 
His  character  wore  well ;  the  surest  proof  of  real  worth.  He 
had,  it  is  true,  some  peculiar  advantages.  Agreeable  in  person 
and  manners,  and  constitutionally  cheerful,  his  first  introduc- 
tion was  prepossessing.  But  what  he  gained  at  first,  he  did 
not  lose  afterwards." 

Mr.  Bronte  visited  Mr.  Weightman  twice  a  day  during  his 
last  illness,  and  Branwell  often  went  to  see  his  friend.  In 
one  of  his  letters  to  Mr.  Francis  H.  Grundy,  he  says  :  "I  have 
had  a  long  attendance  at  the  death-bed  of  the  Rev.  Mr. 
Weightman,  one  of  my  dearest  friends."  A  tablet  was  erected 
to  his  memory  in  the  north  aisle  of  Haworth  Old  Church  by 
the  parishioners  of  Haworth,  by  all  of  whom  he  was  greatly 
loved. 

Mr.  Bronte's  published  appreciation  of  Mr.  Weightman,  and 
the  esteem  in  which  he  was  held  by  the  whole  village,  go  far 
to  correct  the  opinion  given  by  Charlotte  Bronte.  She  says, 
in  a  letter  to  Ellen  Nussey,  "He  is  a  thorough  male  flirt," 
and  "  He  ought  not  to  have  been  a  parson,  certainly  not," 
but  this  may  have  been  said  in  sarcasm. 

In  Agnes  Grey,  the  curate  whom  Agnes  marries  is  a  Mr. 
Weston,  and  he  is  said  to  have  been  based  on  William 
Weightman.  A  poem  written  by  Anne  Bronte'  is  considered 


170       IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

to  have  been  an  expression  of  her  feelings  at  the  death  of  the 
young  curate,  for  during  her  lifetime,  Mr.  Weightman  was  the 
only  curate  with  whom  she  was  closely  associated.  Charlotte 
Bronte  gives  this  poem  the  first  place  in  the  small  collection  of 
the  poems  of  Anne  Bronte  or  rather  Acton  Bell. 

"  A  REMINISCENCE 
By  ACTON  BELL. 
Yes,  thou  art  gone  !   and  never  more 

Thy  sunny  smile  shall  gladden  me  ; 
But  I  may  pass  the  old  church  door, 
And  pace  the  floor  that  covers  thee. 

May  stand  upon  the  cold,  damp  stone, 

And  think  that,  frozen  lies  below 
The  lightest  heart  that  I  have  known, 

The  kindest  I  shall  ever  know. 

Yet,  though  I  cannot  see  thee  more, 

'Tis  still  a  comfort  to  have  seen  ; 
And  though  thy  transient  life  is  o'er, 

'Tis  sweet  to  think  that  thou  hast  been  ; 

To  think  a  soul  so  near  divine, 

Within  a  form  so  angel  fair, 
United  to  a  heart  like  thine, 

Has  gladdened  once  our  humble  sphere." 

In  Agnes  Grey,  which  Anne  Bronte  admitted  was  to  a 
great  extent  autobiographical,  she  writes — 

"  Shielded  by  my  own  obscurity  and  by  the  lapse  of  years, 
and  a  few  fictitious  names,  I  do  not  fear  to  venture  ;  and  will 
candidly  lay  before  the  public  what  I  would  not  disclose  to  the 
most  intimate  friend." 


CHAPTER  XIII 

ANNE  BRONTE 

SCANT  notice  by  Biographers — Her  Education  at  home — Her  character 
—  Agnes  Grey — Charlotte's  solicitude  for  Anne — Her  difficulties  as 
governess  at  Blake  Hall — She  obtains  a  situation  as  governess  at 
Thorpe  Green — Branwell  Bronte  a  tutor  in  the  same  family- 
Anne  leaves  Thorpe  Green — Wildfell  Hall — Branwell's  dismissal. 

OF  the  three  sisters,  the  youngest,  Anne,  has  received  very 
little  notice  ;  there  is  no  biography  of  her,  and  she  is  simply 
the  sister  of  Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte.  Even  the  ne'er- 
do-well  Branwell  has  had  his  life  story  related  by  Mr.  Francis 
Leyland,  but  no  one  has  ever  thought  it  worth  while  to  chronicle 
the  doings  of  this  gentle  little  sister,  and  yet  she  is  a  character 
well  worth  studying,  and,  if  her  genius  cannot  rank  with  that 
of  her  more  famous  sisters,  she  was,  as  Charlotte  Bronte  said 
of  her,  ",  genuinely  good  and  truly  great." 

Anne  Bronte',  born  on  17th  January,  1820,  at  Thornton, 
was  the  youngest  child  of  Patrick  Bronte,  and  her  mother 
lived  only  a  year  and  eight  months  after  her  birth.  In  conse- 
quence, the  baby  was  in  the  charge  of  servants  and  the  older 
sisters  for  almost  a  year.  When  Aunt  Branwell  came  to  tend 
the  little  flock,  it  was  Anne  that  she  was  most  attached  to, 
and  the  little  one  looked  upon  her  as  a  mother.  Anne  was  more 
like  the  Branwells  than  the  Brontes,  and  in  this  respect  she 
differed  from  her  two  sisters.  With  the  exception  of  a  short 
period  of  less  than  three  months,  she  never  attended  any, 
school,  but  was  educated  entirely  by  her  father,  her  aunt  and 
her  sister  Charlotte.  To  have  retained  her  last  appointment 
at  Thorpe  Green  for  four  years  was  no  small  testimony  to  her 
ability  as  a  governess,  and  to  her  home  training.  Her  pupils 
loved  her,  and  in  after  years  came  to  see  her,  and  were  wonder- 
fully attached  to  her.  There  is  no  record  that  either  Charlotte 
or  Emily  kindled  such  kindly  feeling  in  the  hearts  of  their 
pupils. 

All  the  people  at  the  Vicarage  were  very  fond  of  this  quaint 
little  child.  Nancy  Garrs  used  to  tell  that  once,  when  Anne 

171 


172      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

was  a  baby,  Charlotte  rushed  into  her  father's  study  to  say 
that  there  was  an  angel  standing  by  Anne's  cradle,  but  when 
they  returned,  it  was  gone,  though  Charlotte  was  sure  she  had 
seen  it. 

Every  effort  was  made  to  keep  this  "  darling  of  the  home," 
as  one  of  the  old  servants  called  her,  from  going  out  as  gover- 
ness, but  at  nineteen  Anne  was  determined  not  to  be  dependent 
upon  others,  but  to  earn  her  own  living.  She  was  not  domesti- 
cated like  the  other  sisters,  for  the  simple  reason  that  her 
services  in  the  household  were  not  required.  She  had  a 
pleasant  voice,  and  could  both  play  and  sing.  Like  her  sisters, 
she  revelled  in  books,  and  knew  how  to  choose  them.  Her 
father  taught  her  English  subjects,  Latin  and  Scripture,  and 
Charlotte  was  responsible  for  her  German  and  French. 

Anne  Bronte  was  determined  not  to  be  a  burden  at  home, 
although,  like  the  others,  she  loved  the  home  life  dearly,  but 
she  had  the  family  love  of  adventure,  and  wished  to  see  the 
world  that  lay  beyond  the  Haworth  Hills. 

The  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte  has  been  accused  of  driving  his 
girls  from  home  to  be  governesses,  but  it  is  evident  that  he 
did  not  wish  his  youngest  child  to  leave  home  according  to 
Anne  Bronte's  account  in  Agnes  Grey. 

"  '  What,  my  little  Agnes  a  governess  ! '  cried  he,  and,  in 
spite  of  his  dejection,  he  laughed  at  the  idea. 

"  '  Yes,  papa,  don't  you  say  anything  against  it :  I  should 
like  it  so  much,  and  I  am  sure  I  could  manage  delightfully.' 

"  '  But,  my  darling,  we  could  not  spare  you.' 

Charlotte  Bronte,  writing  to  Ellen  Nussey  at  this  time, 
says — 

"April  15,  1839. 

"  I  could  not  write  to  you  in  the  week  you  requested,  as 
about  that  time  we  were  very  busy  in  preparing  for  Anne's 
departure.  Poor  child  !  she  left  us  last  Monday  ;  no  one  went 
with  her  ;  it  was  her  own  wish  that  she  might  be  allowed  to  go 
alone,  as  she  thought  she  could  manage  better  and  summon 
more  courage  if  thrown  entirely  upon  her  own  resources. 
We  have  had  one  letter  from  her  since  she  went.  She  expresses 


ANNE  BRONTE  AND  BLAKE  HALL     173 

herself  very  well  satisfied,  and  says  that  Mrs.  Ingham  is  ex- 
tremely kind  ;  the  two  eldest  children  alone  are  under  her 
care,  the  rest  are  confined  to  the  nursery,  with  which  and  its 
occupants  she  has  nothing  to  do.  ...  I  hope  she'll  do.  You 
would  be  astonished  what  a  sensible,  clever  letter  she  writes  ; 
it  is  only  the  talking  part  that  I  fear.  But  I  do  seriously 
apprehend  that  Mrs.  Ingham  will  sometimes  conclude  that  she 
has  a  natural  impediment  in  her  speech." 

Anne  gives  the  account  of  becoming  a  governess  in  the  first 
chapter  of  Agnes  Grey. 

The  Mary  of  this  story  is  undoubtedly  Emily  Bronte.  Anne 
and  Emily  were  devoted  to  each  other,  whilst  Charlotte  acted 
the  part  of  mother,  rather  than  sister. 

The  picture  of  the  youngest  member  of  the  family  going  out 
to  earn  her  own  living  is  given  in  Anne's  characteristic  way ; 
she  was  openly  more  religious  than  the  other  members  of  the 
family.  It  is  possible  that  Aunt  Branwell  had  taught  her  some 
of  the  Methodist  doctrines,  which  she  brought  from  her 
Methodist  home  in  Penzance. 

In  the  chapter  of  Agnes  Grey,  headed  "  First  Lessons  in  the 
Art  of  Instruction,"  Anne  gives  a  carefully  detailed  account 
of  her  trials  at  Blake  Hall,  and  yet,  unlike  Charlotte,  she  sent 
a  cheering  letter  home  after  her  arrival,  but  later  she  told  her 
sisters  of  her  trials  as  a  governess.  Emily  sent  a  message  of  hope 
to  Anne/Jand  Charlotte  told  Ellen  Nussey  that  she  could  never 
bear  the  worries  of  the  life  of  a  governess  such  as  Anne  was 
experiencing. 

Charlotte,  ever  solicitous  for  Anne,  for  whose  sake  she  had 
once  and  only  once  quarrelled  with  Miss  Wooler,  wrote  to 
Ellen  Nussey — 

"  I  have  one  aching  feeling  at  my  heart  (I  must  allude  to  it, 
though  I  had  resolved  not  to).  It  is  about  Anne  ;  she  has  so 
much  to  endure  ;  far,  far  more  than  I  ever  had.  When  my 
thoughts  turn  to  her,  they  always  see  her  as  a  patient,  per- 
secuted stranger.  I  know  what  concealed  susceptibility  is 
in  her  nature,  when  her  feelings  are  wounded.  I  wish  I  could 
be  with  her  to  administer  a  little  balm.  She  is  more  lonely — 


174       IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

less  gifted  with  the  power  of  making  friends,  even  than  I  am. 
'  Drop  the  subject.'  " 

Anne's  reign  as  governess  at  Blake  Hall  was  over  in  a  year. 
In  the  earlier  chapters  of  Agnes  Grey  she  gives  an  appalling 
account  of  the  life  of  a  governess  in  a  wealthy  family  where 
the  children  were  badly  trained. 

Though  it  is  well  known  that  Mrs.  Gaskell,  after  the  publica- 
tion of  her  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  received  many  letters  con- 
cerning people  identified  in  her  book,  the  account  of  Anne 
Bronte's  hardships  at  Blake  Hall  was  kept  in  all  the  editions. 
To  make  it  look  not  quite  so  black  against  the  employers  of 
the  Brontes  Mrs.  Gaskell  gives,  by  way  of  explanation,  the 
sisters'  want  of  tact  in  managing  children.  There  is  no  doubt 
that  Anne  Bronte  deserved  sympathy,  but  the  mistake  from 
the  first  was  that,  in  the  days  of  the  Brontes,  girls  were  sup- 
posed to  know  how  to  teach  without  receiving  any  training 
of  any  sort. 

After  her  holidays,  Anne  returned  to  Blake  Hall  and  the 
naughty  little  children. 

"  I  returned,  however,  with  unabated  vigour  to  my  work — 
a  moie  arduous  task  than  anyone  can  imagine."  Then  she 
tells  of  hard,  stubborn  fights  with  the  children,  and  of  her 
greater  troubles  with  their  parents,  who  could  see  nothing 
wrong,  but  found  fault  continually  with  the  governess. 

At  a  later  period,  when  Agnes  Grey  had  been  reviewed,  and 
some  had  complained  of  the  extravagant  colouring  of  certain 
parts,  Anne  Bronte  replied  that  those  scenes  "  were  carefully 
copied  from  the  life,  with  a  most  scrupulous  avoidance  of  all 
exaggeration."  With  characteristic  truthfulness,  she  tells 
of  her  dismissal  by  Mrs.  Bloomfield  [Mrs.  Ingham]  who  attri- 
buted the  backwardness  of  the  pupils  to  "  the  want  of  sufficient 
firmness  and  diligent  persevering  care  "  on  the  part  of  the 
governess.  The  meek  way  in  which  Anne  Bronte  submitted 
"  like  a  self -convicted  culprit "  and  returned  to  her  home 
'  *  vexed,  harassed  and  disappointed,"  shows  how  difficult  her 
life  as  a  governess  had  really  been,  and  yet  how  determinedly 
this  frail  girl  decided  to  go  out  again  as  a  teacher.  The 
three  sisters  seem  to  have  been  troubled  by  their  father's 


FEARS  OF  POVERTY  175 

ill-health,  and  the  thought  of  being  left  alone  to  struggle  with 
the  world  appears  to  have  spurred  both  Charlotte  and  Anne 
to  seek  a  situation,  with  the  idea  of  earning  their  own  living, 
and  gaining  experience  which  would,  at  a  later  stage,  enable 
them  to  start  a  school  of  their  own. 
Just  about  this  time  Charlotte  writes — 

"  No  further  steps  have  been  taken  about  the  project  [start- 
ing a  school  of  their  own]  I  mentioned  to  you,  nor  probably 
will  be  for  the  present ;  but  Emily,  and  Anne,  and  I  keep  it 
in  view.  It  is  our  pole  star,  and  we  look  to  it  in  all 
circumstances  of  despondency." 

In  Jane  Eyre,  Villette,  The  Professor  and  Agnes  Grey,  the 
heroine  looks  forward  to  having  a  little  school  of  her  own,  and 
in  each  case  this  is  referred  to  as  a  haven  of  peace.  The  night- 
mare of  poverty  never  seemed  to  leave  Anne  and  Charlotte 
in  those  days,  and  after  remaining  at  home  a  little  more  than 
a  year  Anne  determined  to  try  her  luck  again  as  a  governess. 
Like  Charlotte,  she  was  tired  of  answering  advertisements,  and 
decided  to  advertise  for  a  situation,  giving  her  qualifications. 

Her  next  appointment  was  in  the  home  of  a  clergyman,  the 
Rev.  Edmund  Robinson,  of  Thorpe  Green,  Little  Ouseburn, 
near  York.  Here  she  seems  to  have  had  a  better  time  than 
at  Blake  Hall,  and  the  fact  that  she  stayed  there  for  nearly 
four  years  proves  that  her  services  were  appreciated.  After 
she  had  been  at  Thorpe  Green  Vicarage  for  about  a  year 
and  a  half,  her  brother  Branwell  was  engaged  as  tutor  in 
the  same  family,  and,  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  he  had  ultimately 
to  leave  in  disgrace,  he  kept  his  appointment  for  two  and  a 
half  years.  He  did  not  live  at  the  Vicarage  like  Anne,  but  he 
lodged  at  a  farm  a  short  distance  away. 

Anne  speaks  of  him  as  having  "  much  ill-health  and  tribula- 
tion "  whilst  at  Thorpe  Green,  and  she  does  not  appear  to  have 
known  of  his  duplicity  until  all  was  over.  She  had  charge 
of  the  girls  in  the  family,  whilst  Branwell  was  tutor  to  the 
only  son.  Both  Mrs.  Robinson  and  her  daughters  were  quite 
smart  society  people,  and  very  different  from  their  little 
Puritan  governess ;  balls,  parties,  and  flirtations  occupied 


176      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

much  of  the  time  of  the  girls  in  the  home.  Both  the  mother 
and  her  daughters  were  quite  a  worldly  set,  and  one  who  knew 
them  personally  said  that  the  account  which  Mrs.  Gaskell 
gave  was  not  so  far  wrong  as  many  were  given  to  understand, 
and  that  Branwell  was  badly  treated  by  those  who  ought  to 
have  known  better.  Both  Anne  and  Charlotte  always  believed 
Branwell  had  been  deceived  and  made  sport  of  to  such  an 
extent  that  he  became  quite  crazy.  Although  Anne  was 
able  to  carry  out  her  duties  satisfactorily,  the  Thorpe  Green 
Vicarage  was  never  the  place  for  Branwell.  His  presence 
might  be  a  source  of  fun  for  Mrs.  Robinson,  but  it  meant 
disaster  to  him,  and  certainly  unhinged  his  brain. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  was  blamed  for  relating  such  an  unpleasant 
story  about  Mrs.  Robinson,  and  in  order  to  avoid  an  action 
for  libel  she  had  to  publish  an  apology  in  The  Times.  So 
certain,  however,  was  she  that  she  had  told  the  truth  that  she 
refused  to  interfere  with  the  account  in  the  third  edition,  but 
she  confessed  in  later  years  that  it  was  altered  by  her  husband, 
who  was  much  concerned  about  the  matter. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  believed  Charlotte  Bronte,  for  she  had  seen 
her  letter  to  Ellen  Nussey,  in  which  she  wrote  of  Mrs.  Robinson 
"  as  a  hopeless  being,  calculated  to  bring  a  curse  wherever  she 
goes."  That  letter  has  since  been  published  and  is  sufficient 
to  explain  Mrs.  Gaskell's  indignation. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  was  mistaken  when  she  blamed  Branwell 
Bronte  for  being  the  cause  of  anxiety  to  his  sister  Charlotte 
during  her  second  year  at  Brussels,  for  Charlotte  herself  writes 
to  say  "  Anne  and  Branwell  are  wondrously  valued  in  their 
situations,"  and  Branwell  stayed  on  at  Thorpe  Green  for  a  year 
and  a  half  after  Charlotte  Bronte  returned  to  Haworth,  so 
that  he  had  nothing  to  do  with  her  return  home. 

Anne  Bronte's  second  novel,  Wildfell  Hall,  has  almost 
escaped  notice.  That  Agnes  Grey  should  have  been  accepted 
by  any  firm  of  publishers  and  The  Professor  refused  is  a  mystery, 
for  Agnes  Grey  is  quite  a  colourless  story,  told  in  a  very  school- 
girl fashion,  and  Anne  Bronte  brings  in  her  scripture  references 
frequently,  giving  the  novel  a  very  didactic  tone,  and  conveying 
the  impression  that  it  was  written  by  a  much  older  person. 


WILDFELL  HALL 


177 


Anne  meant  to  write  a  story  with  a  purpose,  and  she  was  not 
afraid  to  point  the  moral.      n 

Wildfell  Hall  was  a  didactic  temperance  novel,  and  had  it 
not  been  that  Jane  Eyre  had  made  the  name  of  Bronte  famous, 
it  is  questionable  if  the  publishers  would  have  accepted  it 
so  readily. 


13 — (aaoo) 


CHAPTER  XIV 
1841 

RAWDON,  (MARCH  TO  DECEMBER) 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  limited  range  of  accomplishments — Her  ex- 
perience at  Rawdon — Advice  from  her  employers — The  village  of 
Rawdon — Charlotte  Bronte's  lack  of  interest  in  children — The 
project  of  a  BrontS  school — Letter  from  Mary  Taylor — Proposal 
that  Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte  should  enter  a  school  at  Brussels — 
The  Heger  Pensionnat  at  Brussels. 

IN   March,    1841,    Charlotte  was  successful  in  obtaining  an 
appointment — 

"  I  told  you  some  time  since,  that  I  meant  to  get  a  situation, 
and  when  I  said  so  my  resolution  was  quite  fixed.  I  felt  that, 
however  often  I  was  disappointed,  I  had  no  intention  of 
relinquishing  my  efforts.  After  being  severely  baffled  two  or 
three  times — after  a  world  of  trouble,  in  the  way  of  corre- 
spondence and  interviews — I  have  at  length  succeeded,  and 
am  fairly  established  in  my  new  place." 

The  appointment  to  which  she  refers  was  with  a  Mr.  and  Mrs. 
White,  of  Upperwood  House,  Rawdon.  Mr.  White,  a  York- 
shire manufacturer  was  said  to  be  interested  in  literature,  and 
Charlotte  Bronte  was  more  comfortable  at  Rawdon  than  she 
had  been  elsewhere. 

Rawdon  has  received  very  scant  notice  from  the  biographers 
of  Charlotte  Bronte,  and  yet  it  proved  to  be  the  turning-point 
in  her  life.  It  was  owing  to  her  stay  at  Rawdon  that  both 
she  and  Emily  decided  to  continue  their  education  by  becoming 
pupils  in  a  school  at  Brussels.  The  step  was  taken  owing  to 
the  kindly  interest  and  wise  counsel  of  Charlotte's  employers, 
whilst  she  was  governess  in  the  home  of  Mr.  and  Mrs.  John 
White,  which  is  less  than  two  miles  from  Woodhouse  Grove 
School,  Apperley  Bridge,  where  her  father  and  mother  first 
met  nearly  thirty  years  before.  The  year  previous  to  this 
visit  to  Rawdon  had  been  an  "  outwardly  eventless  year." 

178 


CHARLOTTE   BRONTE  AT  RAWDON  179 

Though  Charlotte  had  been  happy,  her  conscience  would  not 
let  her  stay  quietly  at  home,  adding  nothing  to  the  family 
income,  but  rather  taking  from  it.  Emily,  who  was  always  con- 
sidered the  more  domesticated  of  the  sisters,  was  also  at  home, 
and  Charlotte  set  herself  the  uncongenial  task  of  answering  the 
advertisements  of  people  in  want  of  a  governess  for  their 
children.  Her  limited  range  of  accomplishments  and  quali- 
fications prevented  her  from  obtaining  a  first-class  appoint- 
ment ;  she  knew  little  of  foreign  languages,  and  less  of  music, 
but  she  had  a  good  knowledge  of  English  literature  :  had  some 
taste  for  drawing  :  and  was  an  excellent  needlewoman — 
qualifications  which  proved  very  serviceable  to  her. 

She  has  sometimes  been  pictured  at  this  time  as  a  morbid, 
melancholy  creature,  but  a  letter  written  to  Ellen  Nussey,  just 
before  she  obtained  the  appointment  at  Rawdon,  proves  how 
inaccurate  such  a  description  was.  When  she  was  happy,  she 
had  more  than  the  average  share  of  animal  spirits — 

"  '  The  wind  bloweth  where  it  listeth.  Thou  hearest  the 
id  thereof,  but  canst  not  tell  whence  it  cometh,  nor  whither 
goeth.'  That,  I  believe,  is  Scripture,  though  in  what  chapter 
book,  or  whether  it  be  correctly  quoted,  I  can't  possibly  say. 
[owever,  it  behoves  me  to  write  a  letter  to  a  young  woman  of 
the  name  of  E.,  with  whom  I  was  once  acquainted,  *  in  life's 
lorning  march,  when  my  spirit  was  young.'  This  young 
foman  wished  me  to  write  to  her  some  time  since,  though  I 
ive  nothing  to  say — I  e'en  put  it  off,  day  by  day,  till  at  last, 
fearing  that  she  will  *  curse  me  by  her  gods,'  I  feel  constrained 
to  sit  down  and  tack  a  few  lines  together,  which  she  may  call  a 
itter  or  not,  as  she  pleases.  Now,  if  the  young  woman  expects 
ise  in  this  production,  she  will  find  herself  miserably  dis- 
ippointed.  I  shall  dress  her  a  dish  of  salmagundi — I  shall  cook 
hash — compound  a  stew — toss  up  an  omelette  soufflee  d  la 
franfaise,  and  send  it  her  with  my  respects.  The  wind, 
which  is  very  high  up  in  our  hills  of  Judea,  though,  I  suppose, 
down  in  the  Philistine  flats  of  B.  parish  it  is  nothing  to  speak 
of,  has  produced  the  same  effects  on  the  contents  of  my 
knowledge-box  that  a  quaigh  of  usquebaugh  does  upon  those 
of  most  other  bipeds.  I  see  everything  couleur  de  rose,  and 


180       IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

am  strongly  inclined  to  dance  a  jig,  if  I  knew  how.  I  think 
I  must  partake  of  the  nature  of  a  pig  or  an  ass — both  which 
animals  are  strongly  affected  by  a  high  wind.  From  what 
quarter  the  wind  blows  I  cannot  tell,  for  I  never  could  in  my 
life  ;  but  I  should  very  much  like  to  know  how  the  great 
brewing-tub  of  Bridlington  Bay  works,  and  what  sort  of 
yeasty  froth  rises  just  now  on  the  waves. 

"  A  woman  of  the  name  of  Mrs.  B.,  it  seems,  wants  a  teacher. 
I  wish  she  would  have  me  ;  and  I  have  written  to  Miss  W.  to 
teU  her  so." 

The  Mrs.  B.  referred  to  was  a  Mrs.  Thomas  Brooke,  of 
Huddersfield.  In  a  letter  dated  12th  November,  1840,  Charlotte 
Bronte  tells  of  exchanging  letters  with  Mrs.  B.  and  how  she 
expresses  herself  as  pleased  with  the  candour  of  her  applica- 
tion for  the  post  of  governess.  Charlotte  had  taken  care  to 
tell  her  that  if  she  wanted  "  a  showy,  elegant,  fashionable 
personage — she  was  not  the  man  for  her."  But  as  Mrs.  Brooke 
required  a  governess  capable  of  teaching  music,  including 
singing,  Charlotte  Bronte  was  not  eligible. 

After  failing  to  obtain  this  appointment  at  Huddersfield, 
Charlotte  Bronte  took  the  initiative,  and  began"  to  advertise 
for  a  post  as  governess.  It  would  be  interesting  to  find  these 
advertisements.  Her  advent  to  Rawdon  was  in  consequence 
of  her  own  advertisement,  which  no  doubt  would  be  modest 
enough. 

At  this  time  she  was  a  woman  of  nearly  twenty-six,  and 
though  she  felt  the  need  of  earning  money,  she  was  careful  not 
to  estimate  too  highly  the  mere  salary  offered  ;  she  preferred 
comfort  and  kindly  disposed  people  to  a  large  salary.  She 
appears  to  have  had  an  opportunity  of  going  to  Ireland  as 
governess  about  the  time  she  accepted  the  post  at  Rawdon, 
and  she  offered  "  the  Irish  concern  "  to  Mary  Taylor,  who  also 
declined  it.  Charlotte  Bronte  always  had  a  longing  to  see 
her  father's  native  place,  which  was  not  gratified  until  fourteen 
years  later. 

It  was  early  in  March,  1841,  that  she  went  to  Rawdon,  and 
in  one  of  her  letters  she  praises  the  house  and  grounds,  but 
does  not  say  anything  about  the  appointment  itself  ;  her 


TIMELY  ADVICE  181 

experience  at  Rawdon  was  much  pleasanter  than  the  time 
she  spent  at  Stonegappe. 

She  says,  "  The  house  is  not  very  large,  but  exceedingly 
comfortable."  Her  employers  proved  to  be  wise  friends,  and 
their  timely  advice  helped  to  guide  her  in  what  proved  to  be 
the  great  turning-point  in  her  life.  Had  they  not  encouraged 
her  to  go  abroad  and  gain  a  knowledge  of  foreign  languages, 
thus  fitting  herself  to  become  a  competent  teacher,  it  is  very 
doubtful  if  she  would  have  gone  to  Brussels.  It  was  Mr.  and 
Mrs.  White's  support  that  carried  weight  with  Mr.  Bronte  and 
Miss  Bran  well,  for  the  "  heartening  on  "  of  Mary  Taylor  might 
not  have  been  sufficient  to  induce  Patrick  Bronte  to  agree  to 
the  scheme  by  which  his  daughters  entered  a  continental 
school.  "  Mary's  price  is  above  rubies,"  said  Charlotte  Bronte 
at  this  time,  and  there  is  no  doubt  that  Mary  Taylor  did  all 
she  could  to  get  Mr.  Bronte's  daughters  to  Brussels. 

Not  only  would  Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte  have  missed 
the  chance  of  seeing  foreign  places,  but  we  should  never  have 
had  Charlotte's  great  novel,   Villette,  nor  her  first  and  oft- 
rejected  novel  The  Professor.     Nor  would  Wuthering  Heights, 
Jane  Eyre  and  Shirley  have  been  produced,  for    M.  Heger's 
great  personality  was  an  inspiration.     Previous  to  the  visit  to 
Brussels,  the  writing  by  the  two  sisters  was  quite  mediocre, 
and  did  not  show  sufficient  promise  to  warrant  publication  at 
a  later  stage.     Some  of  Charlotte's  unpublished  and  unfinished 
stories  do  not  by  any  means  give  great  indication  of  genius. 
It  is  to  the  honour  of    M.  Heger  that  the  great    Bronte 
lovelists  were  the  two  members  of  the  Bronte  family  who  came 
ider  his  influence.     If  Branwell  and  Anne  could  have  had 
year  or  two  under  M.  Heger,  he  might  have  left  his  mark  upon 
them.     If  anyone  could  have  given  Branwell  "  balance,"  it 
ras  M.  Heger  ;    Anne  would  have  acquired  more  confidence, 
id  the  wider  outlook  would  have  broadened  her  views,  and 
given  her  a  larger  scope  for  her  novels.     Neither  Branwell  nor 
Anne  had  any  training  as  teachers,  and,  as  they  lacked  aptitude, 
the  wonder  is  that  they  met  with  any  success  whatever  in 
teaching.     Their  experience  of  life  was  also  too  limited,  and  it 
is  scarcely  a  matter  for  wonder  that  Branwell  went  to  "  The 


182       IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

Black  Bull  "  for  some  diversion.  When  Charlotte  and  Emily 
visited  Brussels,  they  entered  a  new  and  larger  world  ;  their 
active  imagination  was  now  turned  into  other  channels, 
unknown  to  their  quiet,  uneventful  lives  at  Haworth. 

Rawdon  is  still  a  delightful  district,  being  now  quite  a  suburb 
of  Leeds.  Upperwood  House  has  been  demolished,  and  one 
more  Bronte  landmark  has  passed  into  oblivion.  The  village 
stands  on  high  ground,  and  is  very  healthy.  The  place  suited 
Charlotte  Bronte,  who  was  very  well  during  her  stay  there, 
and  was  able  to  do  a  great  amount  of  work.  This  is  seen  by  her 
high-spirited  letters  and  her  self-assertion  ;  she  not  only  had 
the  courage  to  ask  for  a  day's  holiday  in  order  to  visit  Birstall, 
but,  when  a  week  was  offered  for  her  summer's  vacation,  she 
boldly  claimed  three,  and  won  the  day.  Her  experience  at 
Stonegappe  and  Roe  Head  had  taught  her  to  "  fend  for 
herself,"  as  Yorkshire  people  say.  She  had  an  additional 
claim  as  she  had  taken  charge  of  the  household  during  the  time 
that  Mr.  and  Mrs.  White  were  absent  on  their  holidays. 

Rawdon  is  chiefly  employed  in  the  manufacture  of  wool, 
but  its  trade  is  not  so  extensive  as  it  once  was.  It  is  proud 
of  the  honour  of  manufacturing  the  first  batch  of  wool  brought 
by  the  Rev.  Samuel  Marsden,  a  native  of  Farsley  near  by, 
from  Botany  Bay,  Australia,  in  1809. 

Rawdon  to-day  is  worthy  of  a  visit ;  fine  villas  are  dotted 
here  and  there  on  the  sunny  slopes,  and  from  the  top  of  the 
Billing  Hill  an  extensive  view  of  the  surrounding  country  is 
obtained.  It  is  possible  on  a  clear  day  to  see  the  spires  of  no 
fewer  than  twenty-three  churches,  and  on  a  clear  moonlight 
night  the  view  is  equally  beautiful.  In  the  distance  are  to  be 
seen  the  Pennines,  and,  on  a  very  clear  day,  York  Minster, 
thirty  miles  away,  is  visible. 

The  district  abounds  in  delightful  walks  to  such  places  as 
Calverley,  Apperley  Bridge,  Guiseley  and  the  more  distant 
and  beautiful  Kirkstall  Abbey.  All  these  places  were  visited 
by  Charlotte  Bronte's  mother  and  father  before  their  marriage, 
as  Maria  BranwelPs  letters  prove,  but,  judging  from  Charlotte 
Bronte's  letters,  she  seems  to  have  had  little  time  for  expedi- 
tions, being  kept  busy  with  the  children  and  with  needlework. 


LACK   OF  LOVE  FOR  CHILDREN  183 

Some  five  or  six  years  later,  William  Edward  Forster  lived 
at  Lane  Head,  Rawdon,  and  there  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Carlyle  visited 
him  in  1847.  Sir  Wemyss  Reid,  in  his  Life  of  W.  E.  Forster, 
tells  of  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Carlyle  being  thrown  out  of  the  dog-cart 
when  Forster  was  driving.  Charlotte  Bronte  appears  to  have 
met  very  few  people  at  Rawdon,  and,  as  in  the  case  of  most 
governesses  in  those  days,  all  her  time  was  claimed  by  her 
employers.  Mr.  Strickland  Halsteads,  of  Hastings,  writing 
to  the  Westminster  Gazette  in  May,  1901,  says — 

"  My  mother,  now  in  her  seventy-ninth  year,  distinctly 
remembers  meeting  the  afterwards  distinguished  authoress 
at  the  house  of  Mr.  White,  a  Bradford  merchant,  something 
like  sixty  years  ago.  At  that  time  Miss  Bronte  was  acting  as 
governess  to  Mr.  White's  children,  and  my  mother  has  a  vivid 
recollection  of  seeing  her  sitting  apart  from  the  rest  of  the 
family  in  a  corner  of  the  room,  poring,  in  her  short-sighted  way, 
over  a  book.  The  impression  she  made  on  my  mother  was  that 
of  a  shy,  nervous  girl,  ill  at  ease,  who  desired  to  escape  notice 
and  to  avoid  taking  part  in  the  general  conversation." 

Charlotte  Bronte  describes  her  pupils  as  being  "  wild  and 
unbroken,"  and  with  reference  to  her  duties  she  says  :  "  How 
utterly  averse  my  whole  mind  and  nature  are  to  the  employ- 
ment." She  clearly  had  no  love  for  children,  and  it  was  the 
lack  of  this  sympathy  which  made  her  task  so  distasteful.  In 
a  recent  publication  on  the  Brontes,  Miss  May  Sinclair  strives 
hard  to  convince  her  readers  that  Charlotte  Bronte  was  pas- 
sionately fond  of  children,  and  she  sarcastically  dismisses  the 
view  of  Mr.  Augustine  Birrell,  Mr.  Swinburne  and  Mr.  George 
Henry  Lewes  that  Charlotte  Bronte  had  no  love  for  children 
and  failed  to  portray  child  life  in  her  novels.  It  is  strange  that 
Miss  Sinclair  does  not  quote  Mrs.  Gaskell  on  the  subject ;  she 
not  only  had  a  personal  knowledge  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  but 
had  also  discussed  children  and  children's  little  ways  with 
her,  and  fortanately  she  has  given  us  her  own  views  on  this 
question.  She  attributes  Charlotte  Bronte's  lack  of  interest 
in  children  to  the  fact  that  the  little  Brontes  had  no  real 
childhood,  nor  had  they  experienced  a  mother's  love.  This 


184       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

would  seem  to  show  that  Miss  Bran  well,  capable  housekeeper 
though  she  may  have  been,  failed  to  gain  the  real  affection 
of  those  in  her  charge,  for  Mrs.  Gaskell  herself  lost  her  mother 
when  only  a  year  old,  and,  like  the  young  Brontes,  she  was 
brought  up  by  one  of  her  mother's  sisters,  and  yet  she  never 
had  to  complain  of  the  lack  of  parental  love.  The  fact  was, 
the  Brontes  were  brought  up  by  a  maiden  lady,  whilst  the  aunt 
in  Mrs.  Gaskell's  case  had  a  daughter  of  her  own,  and  was  a 
most  lovable  woman. 

What  Charlotte  Bronte  said  of  her  charges — children  of  six 
and  eight  years  of  age — and  of  her  distaste  for  teaching,  proves 
that  she  had  no  affection  for  children,  nor  interest  in  associating 
with  them.  She  hated  teaching,  and  came  perilously  near 
hating  children,  unless  they  were  well-mannered,  pretty,  and 
naturally  affectionate  like  Mrs.  Gaskell's  own  little  daughters. 

Charlotte  Bronte  speaks  of  her  feeling  towards  children 
whom  she  likes,  and  not  of  children  in  general,  and  instead 
of  saying  she  loves  their  little  ways  she  says,  "  Their  ways  are 
all  matter  of  half-admiring,  half-puzzled  speculation,"  which 
proves  that  she  had  been  analysing  their  feelings,  instead  of 
spontaneously  returning  their  love  as  it  was  given.  This  is 
shown  by  a  little  incident  which  Mrs.  Gaskell  relates — 

"  Once  when  I  told  Julia  to  take  and  show  her  the  way  to 
some  room  in  the  house,  Miss  Bronte  shrunk  backer  '  Do  not 
bid  her  do  anything  for  me,'  she  said  ;  '  it  has  been  so  sweet 
hitherto  to  have  her  rendering  her  little  kindnesses 
spontaneously.' ' 

This  is  evidence  that  Charlotte  Bronte  suspected  that  the 
child  had  been  told  to  be  kind  to  her.  She  had  little  faith  in 
the  natural  love  of  a  little  child  ;  but  no  wonder  when  we 
remember  her  own  childhood. 

Her  Sunday  School  scholars  at  Haworth  were  very  proud  of 
her  when  she  became  known  as  a  distinguished  author,  but 
they  all  admitted  that  in  her  early  days,  and  even  later,  she 
was  very  strict,  and  the  children  in  the  day  school,  who  had 
to  submit  their  specimens  of  needlework  to  her,  when  she  paid 
her  surprise  visits  to  the  school,  remembered  with  regret 
how  severe  she  could  be  if  the  back-stitching  was  not  perfect. 


CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  AS  A  TEACHER        185 

"  Three  threads  for  each  stitch  "  was  Miss  Bronte's  rule,  they 
told  me,  and  the  mistress  who  was  responsible  for  the  needle- 
work in  the  Haworth  Church  School  was  very  nervous  as  to 
the  results  of  Miss  Bronte's  visit.  One  of  these  very  pupils, 
visiting  Haworth  a  few  years  ago,  and  standing  at  Charlotte 
Bronte's  grave,  testified  to  the  fear  of  the  children  when  Miss 
Bronte  came  to  school  to  examine  the  sewing  and  knitting. 
As  Mrs.  Gaskell  says,  all  this  severity  was  the  result  of  having 
no  mother,  a  strict  father,  and  an  aunt  who  was  lacking  in 
affection  for  children.  Tabitha  Brown  once  remarked  to  me — 

"  You  know  Miss  Branwell  was  a  real,  old  tyke.  She  made 
the  girls  work  at  their  sewing,  and  what  with  their  father's 
strictness  over  their  lessons,  and  the  hours  they  devoted  to 
needlework,  they  had  little  time  for  themselves  until  after 
nine  o'clock  at  night,  and  that  was  when  they  got  time  for 
their  writing."  Mary  Taylor  confirms  this  in  one  of  her  letters. 

This  severity,  however,  was  helpful  to  the  girls  afterwards. 
Emily  was  the  least  efficient  at  needlework  ;  she  had  no 
patience  for  such  a  task,  and  she  did  not  "  finish  off "  neatly 
as  Charlotte  and  Anne  did.  Specimens  of  needlework  done  by 
Charlotte  and  Emily,  in  the  writer's  possession,  prove  this. 

It  was  at  Rawdon  that  Charlotte  Bronte'  had  to  act  as 
nurse  during  the  Spring  cleaning,  and  she  tells  us  "  She  sus- 
pected herself  of  getting  rather  fond  of  the  baby."  This  is 
not  the  language  of  a  woman  of  twenty-six,  who  was  passion- 
ately fond  of  a  young  child  committed  to  her  temporary  charge. 

The  fact  is,  she  lacked  patience  in  dealing  with  children, 
and  she  was  deficient  in  the  saving  grace  of  humour,  when  she 
had  charge  of  children.  When  she  visited  Thackeray  at  his 
home  in  Young  Street,  she  thought  his  little  girls  were  very 
forward  because  they  chatted  naturally  rather  than  waited 
until  they  were  spoken  to,  and  the  girls  did  not  take  kindly 
to  the  little  Jane  Eyre  as  they  called  her.  Take  the  incident 
where  Adele  is  allowed  to  accompany  Rochester  and  Jane 
Eyre  in  the  conveyance.  Would  any  woman  who  had  ordinary 
interest  in  v.  young  girl's  welfare  have  allowed  her  to  take 
part  in  the  conversation  between  Rochester  and  Jane  Eyre  ? 


186       IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

The  motherly  feeling  for  a  child  was  entirely  absent,  and 
it  showed  how  Charlotte  Bronte  failed  to  grasp  the  true 
relations  which  should  exist  between  a  young  girl  and  her 
elders  on  such  subjects  of  conversation.  Then  there  was 
Georgette  in  Villette,  to  say  nothing  of  Polly.  But,  says 
one  critic,  Mr.  Swinburne  had  forgotten  Georgette.  Not  at 
all !  Georgette  was  not  a  creation  by  Charlotte  Bronte  ; 
she  was  a  character  taken  from  life,  and  represented  Louise 
Heger,  the  second  child  of  Madame  Heger,  and  Polly  was  a 
character  unlike  any  other  child,  unless  it  be  Paul  Dombey, 
to  whom  Charlotte  Bronte  probably  owes  something,  though 
she  need  not  have  gone  further  than  the  Haworth  parsonage, 
where  the  children  were  almost  as  quaint  as  Polly.  In  addi- 
tion, there  is  the  letter  from  Charlotte  Bronte  to  Miss  Wooler, 
about  the  disappointing  trip  to  Scotland  with  Mr.  and  Mrs. 
Taylor  and  the  baby,  "  that  rather  despotic  member  of  modern 
households,"  as  Charlotte  Bronte  says.  The  whole  letter  seems 
to  show  that  she  thought  that  too  much  fuss  was  being  made  of 
the  baby,  although  she  says,  "had  any  evil  consequences 
followed  a  prolonged  stay,  I  would  never  have  forgiven  myself." 
She,  however,  is  careful  to  say  that  she  considered  the  ailment 
trivial  and  temporary,  and  she  left  "  bonnie  Scotland  "  with 
reluctance. 

After  Charlotte  Bronte  had  been  at  Upperwood  House  for  a 
few  months,  Miss  Wooler,  her  old  schoolmistress,  offered  her  the 
goodwill  of  Heald's  House  School,  which  had  been  in  charge  of 
Miss  Wooler's  sister,  but  had  "  got  into  a  consumptive  state,"  to 
quote  Charlotte  Bronte's  letter.  At  this  time  the  three 
Bronte  girls  had  no  outlook  in  life  other  than  that  of  being 
teachers,  unless  they  married,  the  probability  of  which  seemed 
very  remote,  as  no  offer  which  Charlotte  had  was  accepted, 
and  Emily  and  Anne  seemed  destined  not  to  marry.  The 
question  of  the  three  girls  starting  a  school  had  been  discussed 
for  some  time  :  Charlotte  was  anxious  to  try  the  East  Riding, 
in  the  neighbourhood  of  Bridlington,  but  no  place  could  be 
definitely  fixed  upon,  and,  as  they  were  unknown  in  that  part 
of  Yorkshire,  they  were  afraid  to  venture.  Anne,  the  youngest 
of  the  sisters,  was  very  delicate,  and  was  then  in  the  employ 


MISS  BRANWELL  AND  THE  SCHOOL  PROJECT    187 

of  the  Rev.  Edmund  Robinson  as  governess.  She  found 
teaching  even  more  trying  than  had  been  the  case  with  Charlotte, 
who,  in  consequence,  was  anxious  to  get  a  school  where  the 
three  sisters  could  live  together,  and  where  Anne  might,  as 
far  as  possible,  be  relieved  of  any  anxiety.  Writing  in  July, 
1841,  to  Ellen  Nussey,  Charlotte  says — 

"  There  is  a  project  hatching  in  this  house,  which  both 
Emily  and  I  anxiously  wished  to  discuss  with  you.  The  project 
is  yet  in  its  infancy,  hardly  peeping  from  its  shell ;  and  whether 
it  will  ever  come  out  a  fine  full-fledged  chicken,  or  will  turn 
addle,  and  die  before  it  cheeps,  is  one  of  those  considerations 
that  are  but  dimly  revealed  by  the  oracles  of  futurity.  Now, 
don't  be  nonplussed  by  all  this  metaphorical  mystery.  I  talk 
of  a  plain  and  every-day  occurrence,  though,  in  Delphic  style, 
I  wrap  up  the  information  in  figures  of  speech  concerning  eggs, 
chickens,  etcsetera,  etcseterorum.  To  come  to  the  point  : 
papa  and  aunt  talk,  by  fits  and  starts,  of  our — id  est,  Emily, 
Anne,  and  myself — commencing  a  school !  I  have  often,  you 
know,  said  how  much  I  wished  such  a  thing  ;  but  I  never  could 
conceive  where  the  capital  was  to  come  from  for  making  such 
a  speculation.  I  was  well  aware,  indeed,  that  aunt  had  money, 
but  I  always  considered  that  she  was  the  last  person  who 
would  offer  a  loan  for  the  purpose  in  question.  A  loan,  how- 
ever, she  has  offered,  or  rather  intimates  that  she  perhaps  will 
offer  in  case  pupils  can  be  secured,  an  eligible  situation  obtained, 
&c.  This  sounds  very  fair,  but  still  there  are  matters  to  be 
considered  which  throw  something  of  a  damp  upon  the  scheme. 
I  do  not  expect  that  aunt  will  sink  more  than  £150  in  such  a 
venture  ;  and  would  it  be  possible  to  establish  a  respectable 
(not  by  any  means  a  showy)  school,  and  to  commence  house- 
keeping with  a  capital  of  only  that  amount  ?  Propound  the 
question  to  your  sister,  if  you  think  she  can  answer  it ;  if  not, 
don't  say  a  word  on  the  subject." 

Whilst  this  project  was  being  discussed,  Charlotte  received 
a  letter  from  Mary  Taylor,  who  was  finishing  her  education 
with  her  sister  Martha,  at  Brussels.  "  Mary's  letter  spoke 
of  some  of  the  pictures  and  cathedrals  she  had  seen — pictures 


188       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

the  most  exquisite,  cathedrals  the  most  venerable."  Ste. 
Gudule's  and  other  churches,  and  some  of  the  pictures  which 
Mary  Taylor  described  can  still  be  seen  in  Brussels.  "  I 
hardly  knew  what  swelled  in  my  throat  as  I  read  her  letter," 
said  Charlotte,  "  such  a  vehement  impatience  of  restraint 
and  steady  work  ;  such  a  strong  wish  for  wings — wings  such 
as  wealth  can  furnish  ;  such  an  urgent  thirst  tp  see,  to  know, 
to  learn  ;  something  internal  seemed  to  expand  bodily  for  a 
minute.  I  was  tantalised  by  the  consciousness  of  faculties 
unexercised — then  all  collapsed  and  I  despaired." 

It  was  well  that  Miss  Wooler  did  not  come  to  terms  with 
Charlotte  Bronte,  for  in  that  case  the  £100  which  Miss  Branwell 
offered  to  lend  would  probably  have  been  used  to  purchase 
the  goodwill  of  Heald's  House.  Apart  from  the  possibility 
of  the  venture  being  unsuccessful,  Dewsbury  might  not  have 
been  fortunate  from  a  health  standpoint,  and  it  was  well  that 
the  suggestion  was  not  carried  out.  Moreover,  Miss  Wooler's 
offer  extended  only  to  Charlotte  ;  she  would  not  have  Emily 
or  Anne  for  the  first  half-year,  and  Charlotte  was  the  only 
one  whom  Miss  Wooler  thought  capable  of  making  a  teacher. 

It  was  whilst  at  Rawdon  that  Charlotte  proved  herself  a 
clever  diplomatist,  by  writing  a  well  thought-out  letter  to 
her  aunt  asking  for  a  loan  of  money  to  enable  her  and  Emily 
to  go  to  Brussels — 

"I  would  not  go  to  France  or  to  Paris.  I  would  go  to 
Brussels,  in  Belgium.  The  cost  of  the  journey  there,  at  the 
dearest  rate  of  travelling,  would  be  £5  ;  living  is  there  little 
more  than  half  as  dear  as  it  is  in  England,  and  the  facilities  for 
education  are  equal  or  superior  to  any  other  place  in  Europe. 
In  half  a  year,  I  could  acquire  a  thorough  familiarity  with 
French.  I  could  improve  greatly  in  Italian,  and  even  get  a 
dash  of  German  ;  i.e.,  providing  my  health  continued  as  good 
as  it  is  now.  Mary  is  now  staying  at  Brussels,  at  a  first-rate 

establishment  there I  feel  certain,  while  I  am  writing,  that 

you  will  see  the  propriety  of  what  I  say.  You  always  like  to 
use  your  money  to  the  best  advantage.  You  are  not  fond  of 
making  shabby  purchases  ;  when  you  do  confer  a  favour,  it  is 
often  done  in  style  ;  and,  depend  upon  it,  £50  or  £100,  thus  laid 


THE   BELGIAN  SCHOOL  SCHEME  189 

out  would  be  well  employed.  Of  course,  I  know  no  other 
friend  in  the  world  to  whom  I  could  apply  on  this  subject, 
except  yourself.  I  feel  an  absolute  conviction  that,  if  this 
advantage  were  allowed  us,  it  would  be  the  making  of  us  for 
life.  Papa  will,  perhaps,  think  it  a  wild  and  ambitious  scheme  ; 
but  who  ever  rose  in  the  world  without  ambition  ?  When 
he  left  Ireland  to  go  to  Cambridge  University,  he  was  as  ambi- 
tious as  I  am  now.  I  want  us  all  to  get  on.  I  know  we  have 
talents,  and  I  want  them  to  be  turned  to  account.  I  look  to 
you,  aunt,  to  help  us.  I  think  you  will  not  refuse.  I  know, 
if  you  consent,  it  shall  not  be  my  fault  if  you  ever  repent  your 
kindness." 

The  masterful  way  in  which  Charlotte  Bronte  managed 
everything  is  to  her  credit.  Although  she  only  asked  for  six 
months  in  Brussels,  she  made  up  her  mind  that  she  and  Emily 
should  stay  for  a  year,  earning  sufficient  in  the  second  half 
to  pay  their  expenses,  if  possible. 

It  is  clear  that  the  father  and  aunt  both  worked  under 
Charlotte's  direction,  and  Emily  seems  to  have  acquiesced 
in  all  that  Charlotte  suggested.  The  hot  haste  in  which  she 
made  her  preparations  showed  how  she  was  fretting  under  the 
restraint.  "  Brussels  is  still  my  promised  land,  but  there  is 
still  the  wilderness  of  time  and  space  to  cross  before  I  reach  it." 

When  the  Brussels  plan  was  all  but  settled,  Mr.  Bronte 
heard  an  unfavourable  account  of  the  Belgian  schools,  and  it 
was  hastily  decided  that  Charlotte  and  Emily  should  go  to 
Lille,  probably  to  a  French  Protestant  school  highly  recom- 
mended by  the  Rev.  Baptist  Noel  and  by  other  clergymen. 
Mrs.  Gaskell  was  unable  to  discuss  the  reasons  for  a  sudden 
change  of  plan,  but  Charlotte  Bronte  was  extremely  anxious 
to  go  to  Brussels  and  she  ultimately  prevailed. 

It  appears  there  was  an  English  lady  who  had  been  a 
governess  in  the  family  of  Louis  Philippe,  and  when  his 
daughter  Marie  Louise  married  Leopold  I,  King  of  the  Belgians, 
the  lady  accompanied  her  to  Brussels  in  the  capacity  of  reader. 
This  lady's  grand-daughter  was  being  educated  at  the  Pen- 
sionnat  in  the  Rue  d'Isabelle,  and  so  satisfied  was  the  grand- 
mother with  the  education  given  that  she  recommended  the 


190      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

school  to  the  wife  of  Mr.  Jenkins,  the  English  chaplain  in 
Brussels.  Mr.  Jenkins'  brother  was  a  clergyman  in  the  West 
Riding,  and  through  him  the  recommendation  was  passed  to 
Mr.  Bronte,  and  it  was  decided  that,  if  the  terms  suited, 
Charlotte  and  Emily  should  proceed  to  Brussels.  M.  Heger, 
who  had  known  what  it  meant  to  be  poor  in  his  younger  days, 
was  so  much  struck  with  the  simple  and  earnest  tone  of  the 
letter  that  he  suggested  to  his  wife  that  very  generous  and  easy 
terms  should  be  named,  and  an  inclusive  amount  was  fixed. 

When  Mrs.  Gaskell  visited  Brussels  in  1856,  she  interviewed 
M.  Heger,  who  told  her  that  it  was  Charlotte  Bronte's  letter 
which  led  his  wife  and  himself  to  take  the  two  Brontes  as 
pupils,  for  Charlotte  made  very  particular  enquiries  with  regard 
to  the  possible  "  extras,"  and  he  and  Madame  Heger  were  so 
struck  by  the  simple,  earnest  tone  of  the  letter,  that  one 
remarked  to  the  other  :  "  These  are  the  daughters*  of  an 
English  pastor,  of  moderate  means,  anxious  to  learn  with  an 
ulterior  view  of  instructing  others,  and  to  whom  the  risk  of 
additional  expense  is  of  great  consequence.  Let  us  name  a 
specific  sum,  within  which  all  expenses  shall  be  included." 
These  terms  were  accepted,  but  whether  they  exactly 
corresponded  to  the  school  prospectus  is  not  mentioned. 


MAISON  D  EDUCATION 

|Jaur  les  \emus  Demoiselles  , 


Sous  la  direction 


cR/uo  T&o^eflly,  3»,  a 


Cet  etablissement  est  situe  dans  Fendroit  le  plus  salubre  de  la  ville. 

Le  cours  d'  instruction,  base  sur  la  Religion,  comprend  essentiellement  la  Lanyue  Francaise, 
I'Histoire,  I'Arithmetique,  la  Geographic,  I'fccriture,  ainsique  tons  let  ouvrages  a  I'  aiguille 
que  doit  connaitre  une  demoiselle  bien  elevee. 

La  sante  des  e'leves  est  I'objet  d'une  surveillance  active  les  parents  peuvent  se  reposeravec 
securite  sur  les  mesures  qui  ont  ete  prises  a  cet  e'gard  dans  I'  etablissement 

Leprix  de  la  pension  estde  650  francs,  celui.de  la  demi-pension  est  de  350/rawc*,  payables 
par  quartiers  et  d'avance  II  n'y  a  d'autres  frais  accessoires,  que  les  etrennes  des  domes 
tiques 

II  n  est  fait  aucune  deduction  pour  le  temps  que  les  e'leves  passent  chez  elles  dans  le 
courant  de  I'annee.  Le  nombre  des  e'leves  etant  limite,  les  parents  qui  desireraient  reprendre 
leurs  enfants,  sont  tenus  d'en  prevenir  la  directrice  trois  mots  d'avance. 

Les  lepons  de  musique,  de  langues  etrangeres,  etc.,  etc.,  sont  au  compte  des  parents 

Le  costume  des  pensionnaires  est  uniforme. 

La  directrice  s  'engage  a  repondre  a  toutes  les  demandes  qui  pourraient  lui  etre  adresse'es 
par  les  parents,  relativement  aux  autres  details  de  son  institution 


Lit  complet,  bassm.  aiguiere  et  draps  de  lit 
Serviettes  de  table 
Une  malle  fermant  a  clef. 
Un  convert  d'argent 
Un  gobelet. 

Si  les  Sieves  ne  sont  pas  de  Bruxelles.  on  leur  fournira  un  lit  garni   moyennant  34  francs 
par  an 


lapr.moric  <U  I  N'cnl, 


CHAPTER  XV 

LONDON 

1842-1848 

LONDON,  the  Brontes'  "  Promised  Land  " — Mr.  Bronte"  accompanies 
Charlotte  and  Emily  to  Brussels — Their  stay  in  London — The 
Chapter  Coffee  House — References  in  The  Professor  and  Villette 
to  the  journey  to  Brussels. 

LONG  before  Brussels  had  been  thought  of,  London  had 
loomed  large  in  the  imagination  of  the  Brontes  ;  it  was  their 
first  Promised  Land,  especially  for  the  only  brother.  Sir 
Wemyss  Reid  in  his  monograph  on  Charlotte  Bronte  tells  the 
story  of  Charlotte,  when  a  girl  of  four,  wandering  away  from 
home  to  find  Bradford,  which  she  thought  must  be  a  heaven 
compared  with  Haworth,  and  how  the  nurse  found  her  near 
Bridgehouse,  at  the  lower  end  of  the  village,  crying  because 
she  thought  Bradford  was  too  far  away.  The  vivid  imagina- 
tion of  the  Bronte  children  took  them  to  places  they  had 
heard  or  read  about,  far  away  from  home.  Chailotte  and 
Bran  well  especially  seemed  to  have  cherished  a  wish,  early  in 
life,  to  gaze  upon  other  scenes  than  their  moorland  environ- 
ment supplied,  and  London  in  imagination  was  their  Mecca — 
their  El  Dorado. 

When  Ellen  Nussey  first  visited  London  in  1834,  Charlotte 
Bronte  was  wildly  excited,  and  not  a  little  inquisitive.  In 
replying  to  a  letter  she  takes  her  friend  to  task  for  not 
appreciating  the  great  capital — 

"  I  was  greatly  amused  at  the  tone  of  nonchalance,  which 
you  assumed,  while  treating  of  London  and  its  wonders.  Did 
you  not  feel  awed  while  gazing  at  St.  Paul's  and  Westminster 
Abbey  ?  Had  you  no  feeling  of  intense  and  ardent  interest, 
when  in  St.  James's  you  saw  the  palace  where  so  many  of 
England's  kings  have  held  their  courts,  and  beheld  the  repre- 
sentations of  their  persons  on  the  walls  ?  You  should  not  be 
too  much  afraid  of  appearing  country-bred  ;  the  magnificence 
of  London  has  drawn  exclamations  of  astonishment  from 

191 


192      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

travelled  men,  experienced  in  the  world,  its  wonders  and 
beauties.  Have  you  yet  seen  anything  of  the  great  personages 
whom  the  sitting  of  Parliament  now  detains  in  London — 
the  Duke  of  Wellington,  Sir  Robert  Peel,  Earl  Grey,  Mr. 
Stanley,  Mr.  O'Connell  ?  If  I  were  you,  I  would  not  be  too 
anxious  to  spend  my  time  in  reading  whilst  in  town.  Make 
use  of  your  own  eyes  for  the  purposes  of  observation  now,  and, 
for  a  time  at  least,  lay  aside  the  spectacles  with  which  authors 
would  furnish  us." 

In  a  postscript  she  adds — 

"  Will  you  be  kind  enough  to  inform  me  of  the  number  of 
performers  in  the  King's  military  band  ?  " 

This  postscript  was  sent  at  the  suggestion  of  her  brother, 
who  was  hoping  to  visit  London  later ;  he  was  greatly  interested 
in  Ellen  Nussey's  letters  from  the  metropolis.  Mrs.  Gaskell 
did  not  give  the  whole  of  the  postscript,  which  concludes  : 
"  Branwell  very  much  wishes  to  know." 

The  efforts  of  the  Brontes  had  long  been  directed  to  London 
as  the  destination  of  Branwell,  who  was  sent  there  to  study 
painting.  Mrs.  Gaskell  had  the  impression  that  Branwell 
Bronte'  never  visited  London,  and  Ellen  Nussey  evidently 
had  the  same  impression,  but  as  early  as  1835,  when  Branwell 
was  only  eighteen,  he  wrote  to  the  Secretary  of  the  Royal 
Academy  for  information  concerning  the  best  means  of  obtain- 
ing admission,  and  at  a  later  period  he  certainly  went  to 
London  and  studied  painting.  On  5th  July,  1835,  Charlotte 
Bronte'  wrote  :  "  We  are  all  about  to  divide,  break  up,  separate. 
Emily  is  going  to  school,  Branwell  is  going  to  London,  and  I 
am  going  to  be  a  governess." 

Branwell  was  the  first  member  of  the  family ^to  see  the 
"  Great  Babylon,"  but  it  proved  too  much  for  him  ;  he  fre- 
quented the  public-houses,  amongst  them  the  Castle  Tavern  in 
Holborn,  then  kept  by  Tom  Spring,  a  well-known  prize  fighter. 
He  was  not  twenty  years  of  age,  and  before  he  really  reached 
the  City  he  had  fallen  a  prey  to  "  sharpers,"  and  very  soon  the 
money  which  his  father  had  so  generously  given  him  was 
either  squandered  or  obtained  from  him  by  fraud. 


BRANWELL  BRONTE'S  VISIT  TO  LONDON    193 

The  sacrifice  which  his  sisters  had  made  to  enable  him  to  go 
to  London  was  not  of  much  use,  and  it  soon  became  necessary 
to  get  Branwell  back  to  Haworth  ;  he  had  visited  most  of  the 
sights  of  the  City  and  was  much  interested  in  the  Elgin  Marbles, 
drawings  of  which  he  intended  to  make. 

Ten  years  later,  and  shortly  before  his  death,  he  wrote  to 
his  friend  Leyland — 

"  I  used  to  think  that  if  I  could  have,  for  a  week,  the  free 
range  of  the  British  Museum — the  library  included — I  could 
feel  as  though  I  were  placed  for  seven  days  in  Paradise  ;  but 
now,  really,  dear  Sir,  my  eyes  would  rest  upon  the  Elgin 
marbles,  the  Egyptian  saloon,  and  the  most  treasured  columns, 
like  the  eyes  of  a  dead  cod-fish."  l 

Thus  BranwelTs  visit  to  London  in  1835  turned  out  a 
miserable  failure,  and  the  family  evidently  did  not  talk  much 
about  it.  This  accounts  for  Mrs.  Gaskell's  not  having  heard  of 
the  visit,  which  led  her  into  the  further  error  in  writing  of 
BranwelPs  ability  to  direct  a  traveller,  who  had  called  at  the 
Black  Bull,  as  to  the  best  means  of  getting  from  place  to  place 
in  London.  Mrs.  Gaskell  tells  us  that  Branwell  confessed  he 
had  never  been  to  London,  which  was  untrue.  Whenever  this 
idolised  brother  of  the  Brontes  was  away  from  home,  he  was 
met  by  some  temptation  which  he  was  incapable  of  resisting. 

Branwell  had  described  London  to  his  sisters,  and  now,  with 
the  loan  from  their  aunt,  they  found  it  possible  to  realise  their 
dream. 

Charlotte  Bronte  was  a  woman  of  twenty-six  and  Emily 
was  twenty-four  when  they  proceeded  to  Brussels  in  the 
company  of  Mary  Taylor  and  her  brother,  both  of  whom  were 
well  acquainted  with  the  journey.  Mr.  Bronte  also  determined 
to  go  with  them  and  see  a  few  of  the  sights  of  London  on  the 
way.  He  was  now  a  man  of  sixty-five  and  apparently  had  not 
visited  London  since  he  was  ordained  at  Fulham  in  1806, 
unless  he  visited  it  when  a  curate  at  Wethersfield. 

The  journey  was  likely  to  afford  Charlotte  Bronte  the  most 
pleasure  ;  she  had  gained  that  for  which  she  had  striven, 

1  The  Bronte  Family,  by  Francis  A.  Leyland. 
13— (2200) 


194       IN   THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

whilst  Emily  was  more  attached  to  her  home.  Charlotte  had 
evidently  discussed  London  with  her  brother  Branwell,  as 
we  gather  from  a  letter  written  by  Mary  Taylor  to  Mrs.  Gaskell, 
which,  curiously,  was  not  published  in  the  first  or  second 
edition  of  Mrs.  GaskelTs  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  though  it 
finds  a  place  in  subsequent  editions. 

"  In  passing  through  London  she  [Charlotte]  seemed  to 
think  our  business  was,  and  ought  to  be,  to  see  all  the  pictures 
and  statues  we  could.  She  knew  the  artists,  and  knew  where 
other  productions  of  theirs  were  to  be  found.  I  don't  remember 
what  we  saw  except  St.  Paul's.  Emily  was  like  her  in  these 
habits  of  mind,  but  certainly  never  took  her  opinion,  but 
always  had  one  to  offer." 

It  was  some  four  or  five  years  afterwards  that  Charlotte, 
in  her  Professor,  put  on  record  her  first  impressions  of  London, 
which  later  on  she  amplified  in  Villette.  Her  wonderful 
memory  had  retained  the  details  of  that  first  visit,  and,  although 
the  party  only  remained  in  London  two  nights  and  one  day, 
Charlotte  managed  to  see  many  of  the  great  sights  which 
London  had  to  offer  ;  her  enthusiasm  knew  no  bounds  when 
she  was  breaking  new  ground  and  gaining  fresh  knowledge. 

The  father  took  his  daughters  to  The  Chapter  Coffee  House 
in  Paternoster  Row,  with  its  side  entrance  in  St.  Paul's  Alley, 
which  still  retains  its  old  name.  The  house  has  been  demol- 
ished, and  what  is  now  known  as  The  Chapter  Wine  House 
has  been  built  on  the  same  site.  Judging  from  a  drawing  of 
the  old  Chapter  Coffee  House,  the  present  building,  so  far  as 
the  exterior  is  concerned,  is  very  similar  in  design,  the 
reflecting  lights  in  the  narrow  alley  between  Paternoster 
Row  and  St.  Paul's  Churchyard  still  being  necessary  for  the 
rooms  on  that  side.  Charlotte  evidently  had  a  bedroom 
looking  towards  St.  Paul's  Cathedral.  The  upper  rooms  of 
the  present  tavern  are  used  by  one  of  the  large  drapery 
establishments  in  St.  Paul's  Churchyard. 

In  the  Professor,  Charlotte,  who  is  represented  by  William 
Crimsworth,  compares  her  little  room  in  the  Coffee  House 
with  that  of  the  large  room  in  the  hotel  at  Ostend,  but  she  is 
grateful  for  her  first  night  in  London,  for  she  says — 


THE  CHAPTER  COFFEE  HOUSE  195 

"  How  different  from  the  small  and  dingy,  though  not 
uncomfortable  apartment  I  had  occupied  for  a  night  or  two  at 
a  respectable  inn  in  London  while  waiting  for  the  sailing  of  the 
packet !  Yet  far  be  it  from  me  to  profane  the  memory  of  that 
little  dingy  room  !  It,  too,  is  dear  to  my  soul ;  for  there,  as 
I  lay  in  quiet  and  darkness,  I  first  heard  the  great  bell  of  St. 
Paul's  telling  London  it  was  midnight,  and  well  do  I  recall  the 
deep,  deliberate  tones,  so  full  charged  with  colossal  phlegm 
and  force.  From  the  small,  narrow  window  of  that  room 
I  first  saw  the  dome,  looming  through  a  London  mist.  I 
suppose  the  sensations,  stirred  by  those  first  sounds,  first  sights, 
are  felt  but  once  ;  treasure  them,  Memory  ;  seal  them  in 
urns,  and  keep  them  in  safe  niches !  " 

Seven  years  later  in  Villette  is  a  more  detailed  account,  but 
in  both  cases  the  novelist  represents  herself  as  travelling  alone, 
which,  in  the  first  visit  to  Brussels  was  not  so  ;  yet,  in  a  sense 
she  was  alone,  for  none  of  the  party  could  quite  enter  into  her 
thoughts  and  feelings.  In  Villette  she  mentions  both  the  first 
and  second  visit,  when  she  was  quite  alone.  Arriving  in 
London  much  later  than  she  expected,  she  feared  to  ask  for 
a  bed  at  the  Chapter  Coffee  House  after  ten  o'clock  at  night, 
thinking  that  it  was  not  respectable  for  a  lady  to  be  out  so 
late,  especially  as  it  was  winter  time.  Ha  worth  people  even 
to-day  go  to  bed  soon  after  nine  o'clock  in  winter,  and  few 
women  are  in  the  streets  at  that  hour.  In  Villette  she  un- 
burdens her  heart  and  shows  her  glee  in  her  new  environment — 

"  When  I  awoke,  rose,  and  opened  my  curtain,  I  saw  the 
risen  sun  struggling  through  fog.  Above  my  head,  above  the 
house-tops,  co-elevate  almost  with  the  clouds,  I  saw  a  solemn, 
orbed  mass,  dark-blue  and  dim — THE  DOME.  While  I  looked, 
my  inner  self  moved,  my  spirit  shook  its  always-fettered  wings 
half  loose  ;  I  had  a  sudden  feeling  as  if  I,  who  never  yet  truly 
lived,  were  at  last  about  to  taste  life.  In  that  morning  my 
soul  grew  as  fast  as  Jonah's  gourd." 

Evidently  the  sitting-room  window,  as  is  now  the  case, 
looked  on  to  Paternoster  Row,  still  held  sacred  as  then  to 
booksellers  and  publishers — 

"  Finding  myself  before  St.  Paul's,  I  went  in  ;  I  mounted  to 


196       IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

the  dome  :  I  saw  thence  London,  with  its  river,  and  its  bridge, 
and  its  churches ;  I  saw  antique  Westminster,  and  the  green 
Temple  Gardens,  with  sun  upon  them,  and  a  glad,  blue  sky, 
of  early  spring  above  ;  and,  between  them  and  it,  not  too 
dense,  a  cloud  of  haze.  Descending,  I  went  wandering  whither 
chance  might  lead,  in  a  still  ecstacy  of  freedom  and  enjoyment ; 
and  I  got — I  know  not  how — I  got  into  the  heart  of  city  life. 
I  saw  and  felt  London  at  last :  I  got  into  the  Strand  ;  I  went 
up  Cornhill ;  I  mixed  with  the  life  passing  along  ;  I  dared  the 
perils  of  crossings.  To  do  this,  and  to  do  it  utterly  alone, 
gave  me,  perhaps  an  irrational,  but  a  real  pleasure." 

The  Chapter  Coffee  House  was  noted  as  a  rendezvous  of 
authors  and  publishers  in  the  eighteenth  century ;  and  in 
the  early  half  of  the  nineteenth  century  it  was  frequented 
by  University  men  and  the  clergy. 

Oliver  Goldsmith  used  to  dine  at  the  Chapter  Coffee  House, 
and  his  favourite  place  became  a  seat  of  honour,  and  was 
pointed  out  to  visitors.  Leather  tokens  of  the  Coffee  House 
are  still  in  existence.  It  was  closed  as  a  coffee  house  in  1854. 

It  was  after  leaving  Cambridge  and  possibly  when  curate 
at  Wethersfield  that  Patrick  Bronte  occasionally  stayed  at 
the  Chapter  Coffee  House.  It  was  not  quite  the  place  to  take 
young  women  to,  for  Mrs.  Gaskell  tells  us  that  all  the  servants 
except  one  were  men,  and  that  women  did  not  frequent  the 
place  ;  but,  from  a  literary  standpoint,  no  haunt  in  London 
could  have  been  more  appropriate  for  the  debut  of  two  future 
authors  than  this  old  coffee  house,  where  Goldsmith  and 
Johnson  were  wont  to  enjoy  the  discussions.  Here  it  was  that 
poor  Chatterton  was  proud  to  associate  with  the  literary 
geniuses  of  London.  On  6th  May,  1770,  only  a  few  months 
before  he  died,  and  when  he  was  literally  starving,  he  tried  to 
deceive  his  mother  by  writing  as  cheerfully  as  he  could  :  "I 
am  quite  familiar  at  the  Chapter  Coffee  House,  and  know  all 
the  geniuses  there.  A  character  is  now  unnecessary ;  an 
author  carries  his  genius  in  his  pen." 

When  collecting  the  material  for  her  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte 
in  1856,  Mrs.  Gaskell  visited  the  old  Coffee  House  with  Mr. 
George  Smith,  though  the  house  was  empty. 


THE  BRONTES  AND  CHAPTER  COFFEE  HOUSE  197 

She  gives  a  detailed  account  of  the  place — 

"  It  had  the  appearance  of  a  dwelling-house,  two  hundred 
years  old  or  so,  such  as  one  sometimes  sees  in  ancient  country 
towns  ;  the  ceilings  of  the  small  rooms  were  low,  and  had  heavy 
beams  running  across  them  ;  the  walls  were  wainscoted  breast 
high  ;  the  stairs  were  shallow,  broad,  and  dark,  taking  up  much 
space  in  the  centre  of  the  house." 

In  1858  John  Lothrop  Motley  visited  the  house  after  it  had 
become  a  wine  shop,  but  he  tells  us  in  the  first  volume  of  his 
Letters  that  the  man  in  charge  did  not  know  the  name  of 
Bronte,  and  he  concludes  :  "  The  slender  furrow  made  by 
little  Jane  Eyre  in  the  ocean  of  London  had  long  been  effaced.'* 
That  was  written  more  than  fifty  years  ago,  but  there  are  still 
many,  including  Americans,  worshippers  of  the  Brontes,  who, 
when  visiting  this  part  of  London,  locate  the  place  where 
Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte  once  lodged  as  testified  by  the 
descriptions  in  the  Professor  and  Villette. 

The  late  Mr.  Elliot  Stock,  once  one  of  the  oldest  publishers 
and  booksellers  in  Paternoster  Row,  possessed  a  set  of  the  first 
edition  of  the  Bionte  novels  bound  in  wood  made  from  one  of 
the  old  beams  of  the  Chapter  Coffee  House.  Another  admirer 
of  the  Brontes  has  a  set  of  the  novels  bound  in  wood  taken 
from  an  old  beam  in  the  Haworth  Parish  Church. 

The  most  interesting  association  of  the  Brontes  with  the 
Chapter  Coffee  House  was  when  Charlotte  and  Anne  took  their 
hurried  flight  to  London  in  1848,  to  prove  their  separate 
identity  to  Messrs.  Smith,  Elder  &  Co.,  who  had  received  a 
communication  from  America  which  threw  suspicion  on  the 
separate  individuality  of  Currer,  Ellis  and  Acton  Bell.  At 
the  same  time  Messrs.  Newby  were  advertising  a  novel  by 
Acton  Bell  as  by  the  author  of  Jane  Eyre.  The  account 
of  Charlotte  and  Anne  walking  through  a  snowstorm  from 
Haworth  to  Keighley,  and  about  eight  o'clock  on  Saturday 
morning  arriving  at  the  Chapter  Coffee  House,  not  knowing 
where  else  to  go,  may  be  gathered  from  a  graphic  description 
by  Charlotte  in  a  letter  to  Mary  Taylor.  Mrs.  Gaskell  was 
surely  more  accurate  when  she  described  it  as  a  thunderstorm 
and  not  a  snowstorm,  as  it  occurred  in  July. 


198       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Mrs.  Gaskell  was  fortunate  in  finding  "  the  old  grey-haired 
elderly  man  "  who  waited  on  the  two  women  in  1848.  He 
said  he  was  touched  from  the  first  by  the  quiet  simplicity  of 
the  two  ladies,  and  he  tried  to  make  them  feel  comfortable  and 
at  home  in  the  long,  low,  dingy  room  upstairs.  When  Mr. 
George  Smith,  with  his  mother  and  sister,  called  on  them,  he 
found  them  clinging  together  on  the  most  remote  window 
seat.  Mrs.  Smith  thought  the  place  was  scarcely  suitable  for 
two  country -bred  women  to  stay  at,  and  she  and  her  son  begged 
them  to  accept  their  offer  of  hospitality  at  Westbourne  Place, 
Bishop's  Road,  Paddington,  but  with  characteristic  inde- 
pendence they  refused,  though  they  accepted  an  invitation 
to  the  Grand  Opera  and  went  to  dinner  at  Westbourne  Place 
the  next  day. 

This  was  Anne's  only  visit  to  London  and  the  only  occasion 
on  which  she  travelled  beyond  Yorkshire  ;  she  does  not  make 
any  use  in  her  novels  of  this  visit  to  the  Metropolis.  The  two 
sisters  returned  home  laden  with  books  given  them  by  Mr. 
George  Smith,  well  pleased  with  the  memorable  journey,  which 
gave  them  much  to  talk  about  when  they  returned  to  the  old 
parsonage  at  Ha  worth.  Their  love  of  painting  was  shown  by 
their  visit  to  the  Royal  Academy,  and  to  the  National  Gallery, 
during  this  flying  visit  in  1848. 


CHAPTER  XVI 

BRUSSELS,   1842   (JANUARY  TO  NOVEMBER) 

BRUSSELS  in  1842 — Charlotte  Bronte's  account  of  the  journey — 
The  Heger  Pensionnat  as  described  in  The  Professor  and  Villette — 
The  Rue  d'Isabelle — Ste.  Gudule's  Church — Charlotte  Bronte"s  con- 
fession— Mrs.  Gaskell's  account — Thackeray's  Little  Travels  and 
Roadside  Sketches. 

BRUSSELS  to-day  is  very  different  from  what  it  was  in  the  time 
of  Charlotte  Bronte.  Then  the  river  Senne  flowed  through 
the  city,  where  now  are  the  Boulevard  de  la  Senne,  the  Boule- 
vard d'Anspach,  and  the  Boulevard  du  Hainaut,  and  almost 
in  a  straight  line  connecting  the  Gare  du  Nord  and  the  Gare 
du  Midi.  It  is  now,  through  the  greater  part  of  its  course  in 
the  city,  covered  over,  but  when  Charlotte  Bronte  was  in 
Brussels  it  was  quite  open,  and  houses,  which  have  since  been 
demolished,  were  built  along  its  banks.  In  the  Hotel  de  Ville 
are  some  beautiful  oil-paintings  of  Old  Brussels,  with  the 
River  Senne,  as  it  was  in  the  time  of  the  Brontes,  and  giving 
it  quite  a  picturesque  appearance. 

Charlotte  Bronte"  gives  an  account  in  Villette  of  her  second 
eventful  crossing  to  Belgium,  when  she  was  quite  alone.  Of 
her  first  voyage  from  London  to  Ostend  there  is  no  record. 
In  the  Professor  she  says  of  the  journey  in  February,  1842. 

"  I  gazed. .  .  Well !  and  what  did  I  see  ?  I  will  tell  you  faith- 
fully. Green,  reedy  swamps  ;  fields  fertile  but  flat,  cultivated 
in  patches  that  made  them  look  like  magnified  kitchen-gardens  ; 
belts  of  cut  trees,  formal  as  pollard  willows,  skirting  the 
horizon  ;  narrow  canals,  gliding  slow  by  the  roadside  ;  painted 
Flemish  farm-houses  ;  some  very  dirty  hovels  ;  a  grey,  dead 
sky  ;  wet  road,  wet  fields,  wet  house-tops  ;  not  a  beautiful, 
scarcely  a  picturesque  object  met  my  eye  along  the  whole 
route ;  yet  to  me,  all  was  beautiful,  all  was  more  than 
picturesque.  It  continued  fair  so  long  as  daylight  lasted, 
though  the  moisture  of  many  preceding  damp  days  had  sodden 
the  whole  country  ;  as  it  grew  dark,  however,  the  rain  recom- 
menced, and  it  was  through  streaming  and  starless  darkness 
my  eye  caught  the  first  gleam  of  the  lights  of  Brussels." 

199 

* 


200      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Even  to-day  her  description  of  the  country  between  Ostend 
and  Brussels  is  very  true,  though  there  are  more  buildings 
to  be  seen  on  the  journey. 

St.  Michel  is  the  patron  saint  of  Brussels,  and  a  fine  statue 
representing  that  saint  in  the  Hotel  de  Ville,  at  the  foot  of  the 
grand  staircase,  attracts  much  attention.  The  Haworth 
Church  was  also  dedicated  to  St.  Michael,  so  that  for  the 
Brontes  there  was  a  link  which  connected  Haworth  and 
Brussels. 

In  the  Professor,  Charlotte  Bronte  does  not  even  give  the 
streets  fictitious  names  ;  she  writes  quite  openly  of  Brussels, — 
the  Rue  d'Isabelle,  and  the  Rue  Royale.  The  only  names 
she  alters  are  those  of  characters  ;  the  narrator  figures  as 
William  Crimsworth,  a  teacher  in  Brussels,  though  with  all 
the  facts  now  known  of  Charlotte  Bronte  there  is  not  the 
slightest  difficulty  in  recognising  her  as  Crimsworth. 

In  the  manuscript,  which  was  purchased  by  the  late  Mr. 
Pierpont  Morgan,  the  title  was  originally  The  Master  ;  on  the 
front  page  a  slip  of  paper  is  pasted  over  with  the  new  title 
The  Professor. 

Charlotte  Bronte's  first  description  of  the  pensionnat  in 
The  Professor  is  quite  accurate  to  the  letter. 

"  I  was  soon  at  the  entrance  of  the  pensionnat,  in  a  moment 
I  had  pulled  the  bell ;  in  another  moment  the  door  was  opened, 
and  within  appeared  a  passage  paved  alternately  with  black 
and  white  marble  ;  the  walls  were  painted  in  imitation  of 
marble  also  ;  and  at  the  far  end  opened  a  glass  door,  through 
which  I  saw  shrubs  and  a  grass-plot,  looking  pleasant  in  the 
sunshine  of  the  mild  spring  evening — for  it  was  now  in  the 
middle  of  April. 

"  This,  then,  was  my  first  glimpse  of  the  garden  ;  but  I  had 
not  time  to  look  long,  the  portress,  after  having  answered 
in  the  affirmative  my  question  as  to  whether  her  mistress 
was  at  home,  opened  the  folding  doors  of  a  room  to  the  left, 
and  having  ushered  me  in,  closed  them  behind  me.  I  found 
myself  in  a  salon  with  a  very  well-painted,  highly  varnished 
floor  ;  chairs  and  sofas  covered  with  white  draperies,  a  green 


N? 


W 


THE  HEGER  PENSIONNAT  201 

porcelain  stove,  walls  hung  with  pictures  in  gilt  frames,  a  gilt 
pendule  and  other  ornaments  on  the  mantelpiece,  a  large 
lustre  pendent  from  the  centre  of  the  ceiling,  mirrors,  consoles, 
muslin  curtains,  and  a  handsome  centre  table  completed 
the  inventory  of  furniture.  All  looked  extremely  clean  and 
glittering,  but  the  general  effect  would  have  been  somewhat 
chilling  had  not  a  second  large  pair  of  folding-doors,  standing 
wide  open,  and  disclosing  another  and  smaller  salon,  more 
snugly  furnished,  offered  some  relief  to  the  eye.  This  room  was 
carpeted,  and  therein  was  a  piano,  a  couch,  a  chiffonnie"re — 
above  all,  it  contained  a  lofty  window  with  a  crimson  curtain, 
which,  being  undrawn,  afforded  another  glimpse  of  the  garden, 
through  the  large,  clear  panes,  round  which  some  leaves  of 

ivy,  some  tendrils  of  vine  were  trained It  was  a  long, 

not  very  broad  strip  of  cultured  ground,  with  an  alley  bordered 
by  enormous  old  fruit  trees  down  the  middle  ;  there  was  a 
sort  of  lawn,  a  parterre  of  rose  trees,  some  flower  borders, 
and  on  the  far  side,  a  thickly  planted  copse  of  lilacs,  laburnums, 
and  acacias." 

Miss  Frances  Wheelwright,  who  died  on  the  6th  March,  1913, 
considered  this  description  quite  accurate  as  she  remembered 
it,  and  she  was  at  school  in  Brussels  with  the  Bronte  sisters. 

With  all  Charlotte  Bronte's  powers  of  imagination,  she  was 
quite  dependent  on  actual  models  and  original  places  ;  her 
purely  imaginative  stories,  written  before  she  went  to  Brussels, 
do  not  ring  true,  and  she  herself  confessed  her  inability  to 
write  except  from  actual  experience.  "  Details,  situations 
which  I  do  not  understand  and  cannot  personally  inspect, 
I  would  not  for  the  world  meddle  with.  Besides,  not  one 
feeling  on  any  subject,  public  or  private,  will  I  ever  affect 
that  I  do  not  really  experience."  This  confession  settles  once 
for  all  the  question  whether  the  books  written  by  Charlotte 
Bronte  came  from  her  own  life-story  or  were  entirely  imagina- 
tion ;  and  though  her  books  are  not  literally  true,  they  are 
drawn  from  what  came  within  her  own  little  world  of  experience. 

The  Heger  Pensionnat  has  now  been  demolished,  not  a 
brick  being  left.  All  the  old  fruit  trees  have  been  uprooted, 


202      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

and  the  garden,  which  had  become  classic  ground  to  Bronte 
pilgrims,  is  gone  for  ever.  Just  a  few  branches  of  some  of  the 
trees  nearest  to  the  road  are  to  be  seen  above  the  debris,  as 
if  protesting  against  the  burial  of  the  old  trees  which  dated 
back  to  the  time  of  the  ancient  Hospice  of  Terarken.  It  is 
well  that  Charlotte  Bronte  has  pictured  the  old  school  and  its 
garden  so  faithfully,  for  as  long  as  her  masterpiece  Villette 
lives  the  old  garden,  with  its  allee  def  endue,  will  be  a  source 
of  interest  to  all  lovers  of  the  Bronte  literature. 

This  old  part  of  the  city,  much  lower  than  the  Rue  Royale 
on  the  East  and  the  Rue  Montagne  de  la  Cour  on  the  South, 
of  which  the  Rue  d'Isabelle  formed  a  part,  is  being  completely 
transformed.  A  new  road  resting  on  arches  has  been  con- 
structed at  very  great  cost,  almost  entirely  filling  the  cup- 
shaped  depression  of  land  in  this  central  part  of  Brussels  ; 
at  the  same  time,  another  somewhat  similar  road  will 
join  it  almost  at  right  angles,  leading  from  the  Rue  Royale. 
This  scheme  will  completely  destroy  that  part  of  Brussels 
with  which  the  Brontes  were  associated.  The  approaches 
to  the  Rue  d'Isabelle  by  the  steps  in  the  Rue  de  la 
Bibliothe*que,  the  Rue  Villa-Hermosa  and  the  Rue  Raven- 
stein  will  shortly  disappear,  and  the  site  of  the  Rue  d'Isabelle 
itself  will  only  be  obtained  by  consulting  old  plans  and  drawings 
of  this  part  of  Brussels.  The  statue  of  Count  Belliard  still 
stands  as  if  keeping  sentinel  over  the  old  Rue  d'Isabelle,  but 
it  is  said  that  it  will  shortly  be  taken  to  another  part  of  the 
town,  or  find  a  home  in  the  park  opposite. 

The  school  premises  have  not  been  inhabited  for  years,  and 
it  is  now  only  possible  to  walk  down  the  first  flight  of  stone 
steps  on  which  Lucy  Snowe  paced  in  front  of  what  was  the 
Hegers'old  home,and  very  soon  these  will  have  disappeared  also. 

The  Rue  Royale  has  also  undergone  great  changes  since 
Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte*  traversed  its  wide  thoroughfare. 
The  Hotel  Cluysenaar,  doubtless,  was  the  original  of  the  Hotel 
Cr£cy.  "  It  was  an  hotel  in  the  foreign  sense  :  a  collection 
of  dwelling-houses,  not  an  inn — a  vast,  lofty  pile,  with  a 
huge  arch  in  its  street  door,  leading  through  a  vaulted  covered 
way,  into  a  square,  all  built  round."  It  was  here,  in  a  small 


THE  OLD  PART  OF  THE  CITY  203 

flat  in  1842,  so  Miss  Wheelwright  told  me,  that  her  father,  Dr. 
Wheelwright,  and  his  family  lived,  and  it  was  here  that  Charlotte 
Bronte  often  found  a  kindly  English  welcome.  This  building, 
too,  has  been  demolished.  The  name  Cluysenaar  was  in  honour 
of  a  noted  Brussels  architect,  who  had  much  to  do  with  the  new 
buildings  in  Brussels  ;  the  hotel  on  the  same  site  has  been 
re-named  several  times.  From  being  known  as  the  Hotel 
Cluysenaar,  its  name  was  changed  to  Hotel  Mengelle,  then 
Hotel  Astoria  et  Mengelle,  but  now  it  is  the  fashionable  family 
Hotel  Astoria,  105  Rue  Roy  ale,  and  is  conducted  quite  as  an 
English  hotel. 

Soon  all  the  landmarks  of  the  Bronte's'  brief  sojourn  in  the 
gay  capital  will  have  disappeared.  The  Park  is  still  left  to 
remind  us  of  Lucy  Snowe  and  Paul  Emanuel  in  that  wonderful 
description  of  the  fete  given  in  Villette  under  the  title  of  "  Old 
and  New  Acquaintances."  It  reads  more  like  a  dream  than  an 
actual  experience  ;  the  topography  of  the  route  which  Lucy 
took  is  not  quite  accurate,  nor  is  that  of  Lucy  Snowe's  first 
visit  to  Madame  Beck's  establishment.  The  visit  to  the 
fete  was  drawn  from  actual  experience,  for  M.  Heger  took 
Charlotte  Bronte  to  see  it  whilst  she  was  in  Brussels  ;  this 
annual  festival  for  many  years  was  held  in  the  Park  on  the  first 
Sunday  after  the  23rd  of  September.  It  is  now  celebrated 
on  21st,  22nd  and  23rd  July,  when  the  weather  is  usually  more 
settled  than  in  September.  It  commemorates  the  martyrs 
and  patriots  who  lost  their  lives  in  defence  of  their  country 
in  1830,  when  Belgium  refused  to  be  forced  under  the  yoke 
of  Prince  Frederick  of  the  Netherlands.  As  M.  Heger  took 
part  in  the  defence  of  his  country  and  his  first  wife's  brother 
was  slain  whilst  fighting  by  his  side,  he  would  have  sad 
memories  of  the  event. 

The  space  now  occupied  by  the  Park  was  the  centre  of  the 
struggle  for  freedom  in  1830,  and  the  district  around  abounds 
in  reminiscences  of  the  revolution.  Between  the  Rue  Fosse* 
aux  Chiens  and  the  Rue  St.  Michel  by  the  Rue  Neuve  is  the 
Place  des  Martyrs.  In  the  centre  stands  the  monument 
erected  to  the  memory  of  the  Belgian  troops  who  fell  in  the 
struggle  against  the  Dutch  in  1830.  An  allegorical  figure 


204        IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

representing  liberated  Belgium  is  recording  the  time  from 
23rd  September  to  26th  September,  the  four  days  of  the 
struggle.  The  Belgian  lion  rests  at  the  foot  of  the  figure,  and 
broken  chains  indicate  the  happy  era  thus  begun.  Four 
designs  in  marble  represent  the  gratified  country,  and  the 
names  of  the  445  patriots,  who  died  in  the  struggle,  are  inscribed 
in  an  underground  gallery.  The  great  fete  now  held  in  July 
is  attended  by  the  civic  and  military  authorities,  as  well  as  by 
representatives  of  the  government.  A  feature  of  the  celebra- 
tion used  to  be  the  gathering  of  the  old  veterans,  who  took 
part  in  the  struggle  for  freedom,  but  now  all  are  gone. 

The  great  Church  of  St.  Michel  and  Ste  Gudule,  generally 
called  Ste  Gudule's  Cathedral,  where  Charlotte  Bronte  made 
an  actual  confession,  good  Protestant  as  she  was,  is  a  prominent 
feature  of  the  Belgian  capital.  It  is  approached  by  more  steps 
than  in  the  Bronte  days,  but  the  interior  is  much  the  same. 
Charlotte  Bronte  tells  us  that  hers  was  a  real  confession,  and 
for  once  the  Roman  Church  appealed  to  her.  She  says  she 
felt  so  lonely  that  she  did  not  mind  what  she  did,  provided 
it  was  not  wrong. 

Sir  Wemyss  Reid  was  the  first  to  show  that  this  incident  in 
Villette  was  founded  on  fact,  for  he  had  talked  with  Ellen 
Nussey  who  knew  of  Charlotte's  actual  confession  ;  moreover, 
a  letter  written  by  M.  Heger  in  1863  to  Ellen  Nussey  (which 
will  be  quoted  later)  had  also  been  seen  by  him,  and  that 
accounts  for  his  assertion  that  Charlotte  Bronte  left  Brussels, 
disillusioned,  after  having  "  tasted  strange  joy  sand  drunk  deep 
waters,  the  very  bitterness  of  which  seemed  to  endear  them 
to  her." 

A  letter  written  to  Emily  Bronte,  and  dated  2nd  Septem- 
ber, 1843,  confirmed  this  story  of  the  confession.  Charlotte 
tells  how  in  the  long  vacation  she  was  feeling  ill,  miserable  and 
lonely,  and  one  evening  after  spending  the  day  walking  about 
the  streets  of  Brussels,  she  made  a  pilgrimage  to  the  cemetery 
where  Martha  Taylor  was  buried,  and  on  her  return  she  was 
reluctant  to  enter  the  almost  deserted  pensionnat.  As  she  was 
passing  Ste.  Gudule's  Church,  the  bell  was  ringing  for  Salut, 
and  an  irresistible  impulse  seemed  to  compel  her  to  go  in. 


STE.  GUDULE'S  CHURCH  205 

In  her  letter,  Charlotte  gives  the  substance  of  the  episode 
mentioned  in  Villette,  but  she  says  that  she  "  promised  faith- 
fully "  to  go  to  the  priest's  house  for  further  counsel,  though 
she  tells  Emily  that  there  the  matter  ended.  "  Go,  my 
daughter,  for  the  present ;  but  return  to  me  again."  I  rose 
and  thanked  him.  I  was  withdrawing  when  he  signed  me  to 
return. 

"  You  must  not  come  to  this  church,"  said  he  ;  "I  see  you 
are  ill,  and  this  church  is  too  cold ;  you  must  come  to  my 

house  :  I  live (and  he  gave  me  his  address).  Be  there 

to-morrow  morning,  at  ten,"  says  Lucy  Snowe  in  Villette. 

In  reply  to  this  appointment,  she  says  "  I  only  bowed  ; 
and  pulling  down  my  veil,  and  gathering  round  me  my  cloak,  I 
glided  away. 

"  Did  I,  do  you  suppose,  reader,  contemplate  venturing 
again  within  that  worthy  priest's  reach  ?  As  soon  should  I 
have  thought  of  walking  into  a  Babylonish  furnace." 

Harriet  Martineau  held  no  brief  for  the  Romanists,  but 
she  considered  Charlotte  Bronte  overstepped  the  ordinary 
rules  of  Christian  charity  by  her  bitter  attack  on  the  Romanist 
religion.  Having  gone  to  Brussels  to  learn  French,  she  con- 
sidered she  treated  the  Heger  family  and  Roman  Catholic 
Brussels  very  meanly. 

Now  that  the  old  Court  Quarter  of  Brussels  is  being  swept 
away,  it  is  important  that  the  history  of  the  pensionnat  should 
be  preserved,  especially  for  those  who  will  always  associate 
it  with  Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte. 

Mrs.  GaskelTs  account  of  the  liistory  of  this  old  part  of  the 
city  is  not  quite  accurate  ;  she  probably  did  not  clearly  under- 
stand her  informants,  and  she  did  not  get  her  statements 
checked  by  some  one  who  knew  the  history  of  the  place. 

Like  many  other  Bronte  pilgrims  who  have  followed  in  her 
footsteps,  she  was  misled  by  the  imposing  gateway  leading 
to  the  old  garden  of  the  school,  with  its  ancient  Latin 
inscription  ;  she  evidently  assumed  that  this  was  the  old  gate 
leading  to  the  former  "  great  mansion,"  built  by  the  Infanta 
Isabella  for  the  Arbaletriers  du  Grand  Serment,  and  not 


206       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

merely  the  gate  leading  to  the  exercise  ground,  for  the  house 
itself  had  been  demolished  before  the  Brontes  went  to  the 
Rue  d'Isabelle,  and  the  site  had  been  used  to  make  an  entrance 
to  the  Rue  Royale  by  putting  four  flights  of  steps  to  gain  the 
level  of  the  higher  part  leading  into  the  Rue  Royale,  past  the 
Belliard  statue,  and  directly  opposite  to  one  of  the  entrances 
to  the  Park.  Mrs.  Gaskell  was  also  wrong  in  assuming  that 
Madame  Heger's  school  was  built  in  the  time  of  the  Spanish 
possession  of  the  Netherlands.  If  she  had  examined  the  school 
closely,  she  would  have  noticed  a  great  difference,  both  in 
architecture  and  appearance  with  regard  to  age,  between  the 
old  stone  gateway  and  the  more  modern  house  and  school- 
room. The  Heger  pensionnat  had  only  been  built  about 
forty  years  when  the  Brontes  went  there,  and  consequently 
when  Mrs.  Gaskell  visited  it  fourteen  years  afterwards  it 
was  little  more  than  fifty  years  old,  whereas  the  Infanta 
Isabella  built  the  stone  gateway  in  the  first  half  of  the  seven- 
teenth century,  and  near  by  she  erected  several  small  houses 
for  the  "  garde  bourgeoise  "  ;  those  old  houses  were  demolished 
before  the  Heger  pensionnat  was  built. 

This  elaborate  gateway  was  still  standing  in  the  Rue 
d'Isabelle  until  1910,  though  in  the  Haworth  edition  of  Villette, 
published  in  1905,  the  gateway  was  said  to  have  been  demolished. 

The  "  Pensionnat  de  Demoiselles"  owed  its  origin  to  an  aunt 
of  Madame  Heger,  who  had  been  a  nun  in  a  French  convent, 
which  was  destroyed  in  the  time  of  the  Revolution.  On  coming 
to  Brussels  she  opened  a  school  and  had  for  her  first  pupils 
her  five  nieces  including  Mdlle  Claire  Zoe  Parent,  who  after- 
wards became  Madame  Heger.  This  may  account  for  Charlotte 
Bronte's  theory  that  a  nun  was  buried  under  the  slab  at  the 
foot  of  the  "  Methuselah  of  a  pear  tree,"  but,  as  the  founder 
of  the  school  was  not  buried  in  the  garden,  the  story  originated 
in  Charlotte  Bronte's  imaginative  brain.  The  actual  fact 
was  that,  in  the  days  of  the  cross-bowmen,  the  slab,  which  was 
there  until  recently,  covered  the  entrance  to  an  underground 
passage  leading  to  another  part  of  the  town,  probably  to 
enable  the  cross-bowmen  to  escape  if  attacked  from  the 
surrounding  heights. 


THE  LEOPOLD  PARK  207 

In  the  Palais  des  Beaux  Arts  in  the  Rue  de  la  Regence  is  a 
large  oil-painting  by  Antoon  Sallairt  of  the  Flemish  School, 
showing  the  grand  fete  of  the  Arbale*triers  du  Grand  Serment, 
and  the  Infanta  Isabella  shooting  at  the  popinjay  in  the 
presence  of  the  numerous  members  of  the  Guild  on  the  15th 
of  May,  1615,  and  bringing  down  the  bird. 

The  pensionnat  was  vacated  by  the  Heger  family  in  1897, 
and  was  afterwards  used  as  a  boys'  school.  Going  through  the 
Heger  Pensionnat,  with  a  copy  of  Villette  in  hand,  it  was  easy 
to  people  the  rooms  with  the  characters  of  the  novel,  so  care- 
fully has  Charlotte  Bronte  kept  to  the  correct  arrangement 
of  the  interior,  and  no  guide  was  necessary  to  find  the  Rue 
d'Isabelle,  with  a  copy  of  The  Professor  at  hand. 

The  Park,  which  happily  will  remain,  was  the  gift  of  the 
Empress  Maria  Theresa.  It  was  through  the  Central  Park — 
so  called  to  distinguish  it  from  the  Leopold  Park — that 
Lucy  Snowe  was  piloted  from  the  bureau  of  the  diligence  by 
the  chivalrous  Dr.  John,  on  the  night  when  she,  solitary  and 
helpless,  arrived  in  Villette. 

As  Charlotte  did  not  arrive  at  the  Rue  d'Isabelle  unex- 
pectedly and  a  stranger  on  her  second  stay  at  Brussels,  her 
account  does  not  ring  true,  but  she  evidently  thought  she  was 
doing  the  best  for  herself,  for  she  says,  "  Fate  took  me  in  her 
strong  hand  ;  mastered  my  will,  and  directed  my  actions." 

Again,  her  description  of  the  forest  "  with  sparks  of  purple 
and  ruby  and  golden  fire  gemming  the  foliage  "  on  the  night 
of  the  fete  brings  to  mind  Thackeray,  who  later  became  Char- 
lotte Bronte's  literary  hero.  He  was  actually  in  Brussels  in 
August,  1842,  when  Charlotte  Bronte  was  staying  at  the 
pensionnat  alone,  and  it  may  be  that  these  two  great  novelists, 
who  came  "  to  their  own  "  about  the  same  time,  may  have 
passed  each  other  in  the  park  or  in  the  streets  of  the  capital. 
In  Little  Travels  and  Roadside  Sketches,  published  in  Punch, 
Thackeray  says,  "The Park  is  very  pretty,  and  all  the  buildings 
round  about  it  have  an  air  of  neatness — almost  of  stateliness. 
The  houses  are  tall,  the  streets  spacious,  and  the  roads 
extremely  clean.  In  the  Park  is  a  little  theatre,  a  cafe  some- 
what ruinous,  a  little  palace  for  the  king  of  this  little  kingdom, 


208      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

some  smart  public  buildings  (with  S.P.Q.B.  blazoned  on  them, 
at  which  pompous  inscription  one  cannot  help  laughing), 
and  other  rows  of  houses,  somewhat  resembling  a  little  Rue 
de  Rivoli ;  whether  from  my  own  natural  greatness  and 
magnanimity,  or  from  that  handsome  share  of  national  conceit 
that  every  Englishman  possesses,  my  impressions  of  this 
city  are  certainly  anything  but  respectful.  It  has  an  absurd 
kind  of  Lilliput  look  with  it."  Possibly  the  Rue  d'Isabelle, 
hidden  below  this  central  part  of  the  city,  escaped  his  notice, 
for  the  chimneys  were  only  just  visible  from  the  steps  leading 
from  the  Rue  Roy  ale.  It  is  just  possible  that  Thackeray's 
view  prompted  Charlotte  Bronte  to  give  the  title  of  Villette 
to  her  novel,  for  she  read  Punch  and  had  met  Thackeray 
before  she  wrote  her  story.  To  her,  however,  Brussels  was  a 
big  city  compared  with  the  little  village  of  Haworth,  though, 
when  she  came  to  know  London,  she  would  think  Brussels 
was  small  in  comparison. 

Almost  all  the  windows  that  overlooked  the  garden  at  the 
pensionnat  had  each  its  relation  to  Villette.  There  was  the 
one  from  which  M.  Paul  watched  Lucy  as  she  sat  or  walked 
in  the  allee  defendue,  dogged  by  Madame  Beck  ;  from  the 
same  window  were  thrown  the  love  letters  which  fell  at  Lucy's 
feet.  Then  there  was  the  old  pear  tree  near  the  end  of  the  alley. 
At  the  base  of  this  tree,  one  miserable  night,  Lucy  buried  her 
precious  letters,  and  tried  also  to  bury  her  love  for  Dr.  John. 
Here  she  leaned  her  brow  against  Methuselah's  knotty  trunk, 
and  uttered  to  herself  those  words  of  renunciation,  "  Good- 
night, Dr.  John  ;  you  are  good,  you  are  beautiful,  but  you  are 
not  mine.  Good-night,  and  God  bless  you."  Charlotte 
Bronte's  recently-published  letters  in  the  Times  prove  that  M. 
Heger  was  the  original  of  Dr.  John  in  some  parts  of  the  novel. 
It  was  in  the  garden  that  Lucy  and  M.  Paul  saw  the  ghost  of 
the  nun  descend  from  the  leafy  shadows  overhead,  and, 
flitting  past  their  own  stricken  faces,  dart  behind  the 
shrubbery  into  the  darkness.  By  one  of  the  tall  trees  near 
the  class  rooms,  the  ghost  gained  access  to  its  non-spiritual 
fiance* e,  Ginevra  Fanshawe.  In  this  garden,  Charlotte  and 
Emily  Bronte  walked  and  talked  apart  from  the  other 


THE  OLD  GARDEN  209 

pupils,  Emily,  though  much  the  taller,  leaning  on  Charlotte's 
arm. 

How  few  women,  if  any,  could  have  found  in  that  garden  so 
much  material  for  romance.  Though,  in  later  years,  it  was 
not  so  large  as  in  the  days  of  the  Brontes,  yet  it  was  full  of 
reminiscences.  Here  was  the  berceau  underneath  which 
the  girls  sewed,  whilst  a  French  book  was  read  to  them  by 
Madame  Heger,  or  one  of  the  teachers,  and  the  allee  def  endue 
was  defendue  no  longer. 

"  That  old  garden  had  its  charms.  On  summer  mornings 
I  used  to  rise  early,  to  enjoy  them  alone  ;  on  summer  evenings, 
to  linger  solitary,  to  keep  tryst  with  the  rising  moon,  or  taste 
one  kiss  of  the  evening  breeze,  or  fancy  rather  than  feel  the 
freshness  of  dew  descending.  The  turf  was  verdant,  the 
gravelled  walks  were  white  ;  sunbright  nasturtiums  clustered 
beautiful  about  the  roots  of  the  doddered  orchard  giants. 
There  was  a  large  berceau,  above  which  spread  the  shade  of 
an  acacia  ;  there  was  a  smaller,  more  sequestered  bower,  nestled 
in  the  vines  which  ran  all  along  a  high  and  grey  wall,  and 
gathered  their  tendrils  in  a  knot  of  beauty,  and  hung  their 
clusters  in  loving  profusion  about  the  favoured  spot  where 
jasmine  and  ivy  met  and  married  them." 

At  the  back  of  the  garden,  until  within  the  last  few  years, 
was  an  old  picturesque  building  known  as  the  "  Galerie," 
probably  dating  from  the  days  of  the  Hospice,  and  hence 
Mrs.  GaskelTs  opinion  that  it  was  part  of  the  school  building. 
This  old  "  galerie,"  with  its  balcony,  was  used  by  the  girls  on 
summer  evenings  as  a  theatre,  and  here  they  acted  their  little 
plays.  At  other  times,  Madame  Heger  took  the  girls  to  the  old 
building  for  needlework.  It  had  a  large,  open  fireplace,  with 
a  plate  of  iron  at  the  back  bearing  a  coat-of-arms,  and  dated 
1525.  This  appealed  to  the  English  girls,  for  it  was  more 
homely  than  the  Belgian  stoves. 

The  pensionnat  was  altered  from  time  to  time,  but  the 
interior  remained  much  the  same  as  when  the  Brontes  were 
pupils  there.  How  well  the  second  division  class  room  has 
been  pictured.  On  the  platform  at  one  end,  Charlotte  Bronte 
stood  to  give  her  first  lesson  to  the  unruly  Belgian  girls,  and 

14— -(aaoo) 


210      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

behind  the  room  was  the  cupboard  under  the  stairs,  into  which 
Lucy  Snowe  cleverly  pushed  the  unruly  pupil,  locking  it 
quickly,  and  thereby  securing  order  in  the  class  and  the  respect 
of  the  other  girls. 

What  tales  those  walls  in  the  second  division  class  room 
could  have  told  ;  here  it  was  that  Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte 
sat  in  the  furthest  corner,  oblivious  of  all  around  them  ;  here 
Mdlle  Henri  received  her  lessons  from  Crimsworth  ;  here  Lucy 
Snowe's  desk  was  searched  by  Paul  Emanuel — the  tell-tale 
odour  of  his  cigar  betraying  him  ;  here,  in  the  evenings,  Lucy 
taught  Paul  Emanuel  French,  and  here  he  taught  her 
arithmetic,  and  perhaps  without  knowing  it — love,  to  be  named 
friendship.  It  was  in  this  room  that  Paul  Emanuel  tried  to 
induce  Lucy  Snowe  to  become  a  Roman  Catholic  ;  here  they 
partook  of  the  supper  of  biscuits  and  baked  apples,  and  here 
the  violent  scene  occurred  between  Paul  Emanuel  and  Madame 
Beck,  when  she  came  suddenly  upon  him  and  Lucy  Snowe. 
It  was  from  the  desk  on  the  platform,  at  the  end  of  the  room, 
that  M.  Heger  himself  gave  those  masterful  lectures  on  literature 
to  succeeding  groups  of  Belgian  and  English  girls,  and  it  was 
from  that  position  that  Paul  Emanuel  uttered  the  spiteful 
tirade  against  the  English.  On  that  desk  were  heaped  up  the 
bouquets,  and  from  there  Lucy  Snowe  accidentally  brushed 
off  the  professor's  spectacles. 

At  a  later  date,  the  dormitories  were  used  as  class  rooms, 
when  the  premises  were  used  only  for  day  pupils — the  pen- 
sionnat  being  in  another  street.  The  oratory  was  converted 
into  a  library,  on  the  walls  of  which  were  portraits  of  dis- 
tinguished residents  of  Brussels,  but  no  place  was  assigned  to 
Charlotte  Bronte.  She  gave  the  school  a  character  which 
implied  censure  rather  than  praise. 

The  large  dormitory  of  the  old  pensionnat  was  probably 
converted  into  a  class  room,  because  the  story  of  the  ghost  in 
Villette  got  abroad  ;  it  was  in  one  corner  of  this  long  room 
that  the  Brontes  slept,  in  a  space  curtained  off  from  the  other 
eighteen  beds,  and  it  was  there  that  Lucy  Snowe  suffered  the 
horrors  of  hypochondria,  so  graphically  told  in  Villette,  and  it 
was  on  her  bed  in  the  farthest  corner  that  she  found  the  costume 


THE  CHURCH  OF  THE  B&GUINAGE          211 

of  the  spectral  nun,  lying  on  the  bed.  It  was  here  that 
Charlotte  Bronte  spent  the  miserable  night  which  Mrs.  Gaskell 
describes  so  sympathetically.  The  refectoire  or  dining-hall 
was  a  long  narrow  room,  where  M.  and  Madame  Heger  took 
their  meals  with  the  boarders,  and  where  the  girls  prepared 
their  evening  lessons.  Here  the  evening  service  was  held, 
when  Charlotte  Bronte,  hating  the  Roman  Catholic  doctrines, 
escaped  to  the  garden.  It  was  in  this  large  room  that  Paul 
Emanuel  read  to  the  teachers  and  pupils.  Some  of  the  scenes 
in  Villette  which  are  literally  true,  as  other  pupils  in  later 
years  testified,  are  described  with  all  the  novelist's  passion. 
She  mentions  the  church  of  St.  Jean  Baptiste,  "  whose  bell 
warned  the  pupils  in  the  Rue  Fossette  of  the  flight  of  time," 
and  whose  cupola  was  plainly  to  be  seen  from  the  windows  of 
the  pensionnat.  This  was  undoubtedly  the  church  of  St. 
Jacques-sur-Caudenberg  on  the  elevated  ground  above  the 
Rue  d'Isabelle.  On  one  side  adjoining  is  an  hotel,  and  on  the 
other  an  antique  shop,  whilst  in  front  is  one  of  the  finest 
statues  in  Brussels — an  equestrian  statue  of  Godfrey  de 
Bouillon,  erected  in  1848,  five  years  after  the  Bronte's  left 
Brussels. 

At  the  annual  fete,  a  solemn  Te  Deum  is  always  sung  in  the 
Church  of  St.  Jacques,  though  to  commemorate  royal  events 
the  Church  of  Ste.  Gudule  is  used. 

Charlotte  Bronte  refers  to  the  Te  Deum  in  the  Church  of  St. 
Jacques  in  Villette,  and  thus  proves  her  careful  observation  of 
events  which  occurred  during  her  stay  in  Brussels. 

The  Church  of  the  Be"guinage  is  mentioned  by  Lucy  Snowe 
as  the  place  where  she  was  found  in  a  faint  by  Dr.  John.  This 
large  church,  which  was  said  to  have  been  designed  by  Rubens, 
is  in  the  Basse- Ville,  near  the  Grand  Hospice  and  the  Rue  de 
Laeken.  That  Lucy  Snowe  should  have  wandered  round  this 
part  from  Ste.  Gudule  is  strange,  as  it  took  her  completely 
away  from  the  Rue  Fossette.  The  description  fits  the  real 
Church  of  the  Be"guinage  with  its  massive  front,  though  it 
certainly  has  no  giant  spire.  Before  Charlotte  Bronte''s 
days,  there  had  been  a  church  in  the  Rue  d'Isabelle,  which 
belonged  to  the  Beguines,  an  Order  devoted  to  the  sick  and 


212      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

poor — the  members  being  willing  to  render  help  to  all  ranks, 
as  they  were  bound  by  no  vows  and  were  supported  by  the 
Belgians  generally. 

Madame  Heger  arranged  little  excursions  to  the  pretty 
villages  around  Brussels,  one  of  which  is  the  picturesque 
Boisfort,  in  the  cemetery  of  which  M.  and  Madame  Heger  are 
buried.  One  of  the  favourite  excursions  taken  from  Brussels 
is  to  the  Field  of  Waterloo,  and  it  is  strange  that  Charlotte 
Bronte'  never  mentions  Waterloo  in  her  letters  and  not  often 
in  her  novels. 


CHAPTER  XVII 

M.   AND   MADAME    HEGER 

THE  Hegers  of  German  origin — Birth  of  M.  Heger — His  marriage — 
Death  of  his  first  wife — His  second  marriage — The  Royal  Athenee 
of  Brussels — Mdlle  Claire  Zoe  Parent — M.  Heger's  success  as  a 
teacher — His  methods  of  teaching — Celebration  of  M.  and  Madame 
Heger's  golden  wedding — References  in  the  Belgian  Press — M. 
Heger's  death. 

ALTHOUGH  Belgium  may  rightly  claim  to  be  the  home  of  the 
Hegers  for  200  years,  originally  they  came  from  Vienna  and 
for  that  reason  they  adopted  the  German  method  of  writing 
the  surname — Heger — without  any  accent  mark,  as  is  usually 
adopted  by  English  and  Belgian  writers.  The  devoirs  written 
by  the  Brontes  whilst  at  Brussels  and  corrected  by  M.  Heger, 
and  letters  addressed  to  members  of  the  Bronte  family,  are 
signed  "  C.  Heger." 

Romain  Constantin  Georges  Heger  was  born  on  July  10th, 
1809,  at  Brussels  and  was  the  son  of  Joseph  Antoine  Heger 
and  Marie  Ther&se  Mare.  He  received  a  good  education 
and  would  have  preferred  to  be  a  barrister  according  to  one 
of  Charlotte  Bronte's  letters,  but  he  devoted  himself  to  the 
profession  of  teaching  for  which  he  had  special  gifts.  When  a 
young  man  of  twenty-one,  he  married  Mari£  Josephine  Noyer, 
who  died  very  early  in  their  married  life  on  the  26th  September, 
1833.  In  1830,  when  the  Belgian  Revolution  broke  out,  M. 
Heger  joined  the  Belgian  forces,  taking  part  in  several  battles 
against  the  Dutch,  and  was  proud  to  have  had  a  share  in 
obtaining  the  Independence  of  Belgium.  His  brother-in- 
law  was  killed  in  battle.  At  the  conclusion  of  the  war,  he 
again  took  up  his  work  as  a  teacher,  and  remained  throughout 
his  life  a  professor  at  the  Ath6ne"e  Royal  of  Brussels.  Here 
he  showed  great  aptitude  in  managing  large  classes  of  boys, 
especially  the  lowest  form,  and  subsequently  was  appointed 
head  master  of  the  school.  Owing  to  some  differences  of 
opinion  with  regard  to  the  methods  to  be  adopted  he  resigned 
the  head  mastership,  and  became  again  a  class  master  in  the 
institution. 

213 


214      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

Near  the  Athe'nee  Royal  was  a  school  for  girl  boarders  and 
day  pupils  taught  by  Mdlle  Claire  Zoe  Parent,  to  whom  he  was 
married  on  3rd  September,  1836.  It  was  to  this  school — the 
Heger  Pensionnat,  in  the  Rue  d'Isabelle — that  Charlotte 
and  Emily  Bronte  were  sent  as  boarders  in  1842.  Mdlle  Claire 
Zoe  Parent  was  born  on  13th  July,  1804,  so  that  she  was  five 
years  older  than  her  husband,  M.  Heger,  and  was  thirty-two 
years  of  age  when  she  was  married.  Charlotte  Bronte  was  born 
on  21st  April,  1816,  and  it  is  a  matter  of  some  importance 
that  the  relative  ages  of  the  Hegers  and  Charlotte  Bronte 
should  be  clearly  recognised,  as  tending  to  throw  light  on  the 
question  of  the  correspondence  and  relations  between  them. 

M.  and  Madame  Heger  had  six  children  :  Marie  Pauline 
Emma,  born  on  the  20th  September,  1837;  Elise  Marie 
Louise  Florence,  born  on  the  14th  July,  1839  ;  Eug&ne  Claire 
Zoe  Marie,  born  on  the  27th  July,  1840 ;  Prosper  e  Edouard 
Augustin,  born  on  the  28th  March,  1842  ;•  Julie  Marie 
Victorine,  born  on  the  15th  November,  1843  ;  and  Paul  Marie 
Francois  Xavier,  born  on  the  14th  December,  1846. 

The  older  of  the  two  sons  was  trained  as  an  engineer  and  had 
just  entered  on  his  engineering  career  when  he  contracted 
typhoid  fever  and  died  on  13th  January,  1867  at  Torquay, 
where  he  had  been  sent  to  recoup  his  health,  and  where  he  is 
buried.  The  younger  son  has  had  a  distinguished  career  as  a 
doctor  and  has  been  for  many  years  a  Professor  of  Medicine 
at  the  University  of  Brussels.  Of  the  daughters,  two  are  still 
living,  Mdlle  Louise  and  Mdlle  Claire. 

In  addition  to  his  duties  at  the  Athenee  Royal,  M.  Heger 
found  time  to  give  lessons  in  literature  at  the  Heger  Pensionnat, 
which,  however,  was  entirely  managed  by  his  wife. 

His  success  as  a  teacher  was  widely  recognised,  and  it  is 
interesting  to  quote  some  remarks  made  by  the  late  Abb6 
Richardson  at  a  lecture  given  in  connection  with  the  Polyglot 
Circle  of  Brussels  at  the  Hotel  Raven  stein,  overlooking  the 
Rue  d'Isabelle,  on  26th  July,  1901.  In  1873,  as  a  young  man 
in  deacon's  orders,  Mr.  Richardson  was  appointed  a  teacher 
at  the  Institut  St.  Louis,  a  large  college  in  Brussels.  He  was 
expected  to  be  able  to  manage  a  class  of  forty  or  fifty  boys, 


M.    HEGER 

On  his  golden  wedding  day,  September  3,  1886 


M.   HEGER  AS  A  TEACHER  215 

although  he  had  received  no  training  in  the  art  of  teaching. 
Knowing  of  M.  Heger's  excellent  reputation  as  a  teacher  he 
decided  to  consult  him.  M.  Heger  was  then  an  old  man,  and 
had  retired  from  public  life,  but  he  not  only  gave  advice 
to  the  young  teacher  but  undertook  to  give  several  lessons 
to  a  class  of  pupils  at  the  Institut. 

"  The  method  M.  Heger  revealed  to  me,"  said  Mr.  Richardson, 
"  was  no  easy  or  royal  road  to  teaching.  His  first  requirement 
was  perfect  self-sacrifice  of  self  :  un  devou  absolu  were  his  words. 
*  If,  young  man,  you  do  not  feel  ready  to  give  this  devou 
absolu  to  your  pupils,  in  heaven's  name  ask  your  superiors 
to  give  you  other  work,  for  you  will  never  do  any  good  as  a 
professor.'  For  him  the  foundation,  and  the  essential  require- 
ment for  success  were  order  and  discipline,  but  order  and 
discipline  obtained  not  by  fear,  but  by  patience  and  unfailing 
watchfulness.  For  him  the  first  point  was  to  establish  a  perfect 
discipline  in  a  class,  even  if  foi  a  time,  say  a  month  or  more, 
little  direct  classical  work  was  done.  Once  obtain  order 
and  an  absolute  command  over  a  class,  and  progress  was 
assured  to  a  professor  without  brilliant  talents,  whereas  the 
most  brilliant  master  with  an  unruly  or  undisciplined  class 
could  obtain  nothing  except  perhaps  the  success  of  one  or 
two  exceptional  pupils.  His  next  precept  was  to  study  the 
pupils,  to  know  each  one  of  them,  to  neglect  none,  and  above 
all,  never  to  allow  an  aversion  towards  any  one  even  to  enter 
into  the  heart  of  the  teacher.  He  gave  me  an  example  of  a 
naturally  vicious  and  difficult  pupil,  whose  lasting  friendship  he 
gained,  and  whose  character  he  entirely  changed,  simply  by 
visiting  him  daily  during  a  rather  long  illness,  and  devoting 
hours  of  his  valuable  time  to  playing  with  him  and  reading  to 
him  during  his  convalescence.  M.  Heger  was  kind  enough  to 
come  into  my  schoolroom  and  to  give  me  a  model  lesson. 
Never  shall  I  forget  that  lesson  and  the  magic  his  genial  presence 
and  clever  and  almost  dramatic  manner  had  on  my  boys." 

One  of  M.  Heger's  favourite  methods  of  teaching  was  to 
give  a  lecture  to  his  pupils  on  some  literary  subject  or  character 
and  then  ask  them  to  write  an  essay  on  some  cognate  subject. 
When  these  essays  or  devoirs  were  finished  and  handed  to  him, 


216      IN   THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF   THE  BRONTES 

he  made  necessary  corrections,  adding  notes  of  praise  or  blame 
in  the  margin,  and  correcting  faulty  expressions  by  re-writing 
between  the  lines.  Where  he  considered  the  pupil  was  at 
fault  in  matters  of  principle  he  pointed  these  out  by  a  written 
statement  at  the  end  of  the  essay.  After  examining  a  number 
of  these  corrected  devoirs,  it  is  not  difficult  to  understand  the 
success  which  M.  Heger  met  with  in  his  teaching  experience. 
The  essays  are  marked  with  much  more  thoroughness  than  is 
customary  in  English  schools  at  the  present  day.  An  illustra- 
tion of  this  is  furnished  by  his  correction  of  Charlotte  Bronte's 
essay  on  a  poem  "  La  Chute  des  Feuilles,"  which  is  dated 
30th  March,  1843,  and  was  consequently  written  during  her 
second  year  at  Brussels.  This  is  one  of  four  devoirs  written  by 
Charlotte  Bronte  still  in  the  possession  of  Dr.  Heger,  the  others 
being  "  L'Ingratitude,"  16th  March,  1842  ;  "  La  Chenelle," 
llth  August,  1842,  and  "  La  Mort  de  Moise,"  dated  27th  July, 
1843.  In  addition  Dr.  Heger  possesses  a  devoir  or  letter 
written  by  Emily  Bronte.  In  the  essay  on  "La  Chute  des 
Feuilles,"  Charlotte  Bronte  was  expected  to  study  the  poem 
and  then  record  in  French  the  impression  which  the  poem 
made  upon  her,  and  explain  by  what  means  the  poet  made  this 
impression.  She  expressed  the  view  in  her  devoir  that 
genius  was  a  gift  from  God,  and  that  the  possessor  of  the  gift 
had  nothing  to  do  but  use  it.  This  M.  Heger  recognised  as  a 
dangerous  doctrine,  and  at  the  end  of  the  essay  he  dealt  fully 
with  the  question  and  pointed  out  with  many  beautiful  and 
apt  illustrations  that  work  by  itself  would  not  make  a  poet, 
but  that  a  study  of  style  would  enhance  the  value  of  the 
effort  made.  "  Genius  without  study,  without  art,  without 
the  knowledge  of  what  has  been  done,  is  force  without  a  lever 

a  musician  with  only  a  poor  instrument  upon  which  to 

play,  anxious  to  convey  to  others  the  beautiful  music  he 
hears  himself,  he  only  gives  expression  to  this  in  an  uncultivated 


voice." 


Emily  Bronte's  devoir  was  a  letter  in  French  which  she  was 
supposed  to  have  written  to  her  parents  in  England.  It  was 
dated  26th  July  (1842).  Although  it  did  not  require  very 
serious  correction  by  M.  Heger,  so  far  as  the  French  was 


MADAME  HEGER  217 

concerned,  he  criticised  it  very  briefly  but  very  severely  because 
it  was  cold  and  was  void  of  sentiment.  He  complained  that 
it  showed  no  affection  and  so  was  of  little  value. 

Although  M.  Heger  could  exalt  the  need  of  patience  in 
teaching,  as  shown  in  his  advice  to  Father  Richardson,  like  most 
people  with  special  aptitude  for  his  work,  he  could  be  choleric 
enough  when  he  had  to  deal  with  stupid  or  indifferent  pupils, 
and  he  naturally  preferred  to  teach  students  who  were  keen 
about  their  studies  and  were  intelligent  and  capable  of  following 
out  the  instruction  he  gave  them.  It  is  thus  quite  easy  to 
understand  his  appreciation  of  the  diligence,  determination 
and  rapid  progress  of  the  Bronte  sisters,  and  his  willingness  to 
give  them  special  lessons,  which  caused  some  dissatisfaction 
among  the  other  girls  in  the  pensionnat. 

When  Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte  entered  the  Pension- 
nat, in  February,  1842,  the  Hegers  had  three  children, 
and  in  the  following  month  a  son — Prospere — was  born.  In 
the  November  of  1843  a  fifth  child,  Victorine,  was  born,  so  that 
Madame  Heger  was  the  mother  of  five  young  children  when 
Charlotte  Bronte  left  Brussels.  All  who  have  known 
Madame  Heger  agree  that  she  was  of  a  quiet  and  kind  dis- 
position, and  the  various  portraits  of  her,  taken  from  time  to 
time,  picture  her  as  a  motherly  person,  in  many  respects  the 
right  type  of  woman  to  have  at  the  head  of  a  boarding  school 
for  girls.  The  continued  success  of  the  school,  even  after 
the  publication  of  Villette,  and  especially  the  unanimous 
testimony  of  the  many  pupils  who  have  been  educated  at  the 
pensionnat  are  sufficient  testimony  both  to  the  ability  and  the 
kindness  of  heart  of  Madame  Heger.  She  acted  as  super- 
intendent or  house-mother  of  the  school,  and  in  order  that  she 
might  cause  as  little  interference  as  possible  in  the  rooms 
that  she  visited  she  was  in  the  habit  of  wearing  soft  slippers. 
Her  duties  and  her  quiet  manner  of  carrying  them  out  probably 
led  Charlotte  Bronte  to  think  that  she  was  in  the  habit  of 
acting  as  a  spy.  She  took  little  part  in  the  actual  teaching, 
except  the  instruction  in  the  catechism  with  the  younger 
scholars. 

Neither  Charlotte  nor  Emily  Brontfc  had  much  opportunity 


218      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

of  knowing  the  real  Madame  Heger  and  consequently  they 
failed  to  appreciate  her  sterling  worth.  If  they  had  availed 
themselves  of  the  hospitality  of  the  Hegers'  private  sitting- 
room,  they  might  have  got  to  know  more  of  the  inner  life  of 
the  family. 

On  3rd  September,  1886,  M.  and  Madame  Heger  celebrated 
their  golden  wedding,  and  in  the  Belgian  paper  Ulndependance 
of  4th  September,  there  was  a  lengthy  appreciation  of  their 
work  in  Brussels,  and  especially  referring  to  M.  Heger 's  skill  in 
training  very  young  children. 

L'lNDEPENDANCE 

"  SAMEDI,  4th  September,  1886. 

"  M.  et  Mme  Heger  ont  ce'le'bre'  hier  leurs  noces  d'or. 
Cinquante  ans  de  mariage  heureux,  cinquante  ans  de  famille 
honorable  et  prosp£re,  cinquante  ans  de  travail  utile  a  soi  et 
aux  autres,  et  cinquante  ans  de  bonne  humeur.  Cela  est  beau, 
et  vaut  bien  que  non  seulement  les  intimes,  mais  aussi  les  amis 
d'&  cote*,  le  public  et  la  presse  elle-meme  adressent  leurs 
felicitations  aux  jubilaires. 


"  Plusieurs  generations  d'e*l£ves  de  TAthen^e  royal  de 
Bruxelles  ont  connu  le  pere  Heger  en  septieme. — Quoi,  vraiment 
en  septic"  me  !  En  voila,  un  titre  de  gloire  !  Parlez-nous  d'un 
professeur  de  rhetorique  ou  d'universite  ;  mais  la  septieme, 
la  classe  infime,  celle  des  be*bes,  la  transition  de  la  creche  a 
1'ecole  ! — Eh  !  messieurs,  ne  le  prenez  pas  de  si  haut.  Com- 
mencer  Penfance,  croyez-vous  que  ce  soit  peu  de  chose  ? 
Eveiller  les  ames,  et,  a  peine  icarquillees,  leur  inspirer  la 
curiosite  rudimentaire  de  la  science  et,  mieux  que  le  sentiment 
encore  obscur,  le  gout  naif  du  devoir,  c'est  1&  au  contraire 
parmi  les  taches  professorales  une  des  plus  importantes  et 
des  plus  difficiles.  Le  savoir  n'y  suffit  pas,  il  y  faut  le  don  ; 
aussi  le  vrai  maitre  de  septieme  est-il  1'oiseau  rare,  et  quand 
on  le  tient  on  le  garde  et  on  lui  coupe  les  ailes  pour  peu  qu'il  se 
laisse  faire.  ...  Le  pere  Heger,  s'£tait  acquis  une  veritable 


GOLDEN  WEDDING  219 

renommee  dans  cet  art  qui  consiste  a  de"gourdir  les  intelligences 
et  a  ^chauffer  les  coeurs.  Et  s'il  y  excellait  c'est  qu'il  1'aimait. 
II  Paimait  tant  que,  promu  par  ses  succds  aux  classes  de 
quatrieme  et  de  troisieme  pour  y  donner  le  cours  de  fransais, 
il  n'y  passa  que  peu  d'annees  ;  non  pas  que  son  enseignement 
fut  moins  heureux  dans  ces  spheres  superieures ;  loin  de  la, 
il  y  etait  tres  apprecie  de  son  jeune  auditoire,  et  les  autorites 
scolaires  lui  rendaient  justice.  Mais  sa  chere  septi&me 
Pattirait,  et  il  ne  tarda  pas  a  y  rentrer 

"  Sans  compromettre  la  gravite  necessaire  a  rhomme 
d'ecole,  sans  rien  perdre  de  son  autorite,  il  egayait  la  gram- 
maire,  il  faisait  vivre  la  syntaxe.  II  avait  le  mouvement,  le 
mot  et  le  trait,  avec  un  grain  de  fantaisie.  Ses  exemples, 
qui  parfois  frisaient  la  bizarrerie,  ne  s'en  gravaient  que  mieux 
dans  la  memoir e,  et  il  est  telle  de  ses  demonstrations  dont  la 
forme  capricieuse  nous  est  restee  plus  presente  que  la  r£gle 
meme  dont  elle  nous  impose  encore  le  respect. 

"  Chacun  sait  que  M.  et  Mme  Heger  ont  fonde*  a  Bruxelles 
un  e*tablissement  qui  eut  longtemps  le  monopole,  ou  peu 
s'en  faut,  de  l'e"ducation  des  jeunes  filles  de  notre  bourgeoisie. 
Voila  done  deux  epoux  qui  ont  forme  des  centaines  de 
families,  eleve  toute  une  societe".  Le  pays  leur  doit  beaucoup. 
Et  parmi  tant  de  jeunes  gens  et  de  jeunes  filles  d'antan  qui  leur 
ont  passe  par  les  mains,  il  n'en  est  pas  un,  nous  en  sommes 
persuades,  qui  ne  leur  ait  garde  un  souvenir  affectueux,  pas 
un  qui  a  cette  heure  jubilaire  ne  s'associe  du  fond  du  cceur  a 
leur  joie  et  au  bonheur  de  leurs  enfants  et  petits  enfants." 

Both  M.  and  Madame  Heger  were  intensely  religious  people, 
being  attached,  like  most  Belgians,  to  the  Roman  Catholic 
Church. 

Madame  Heger  died  on  9th  January,  1890,  in  her  eighty- 
sixth  year.  Her  husband  survived  her  six  years,  dying 
on  the  6th  of  May,  1896,  in  the  eighty-seventh  year  of  his 
age. 

On  the  9th  of  May  under  the  heading  "  Echos  de  la  Ville," 
there  appeared  in  the  Belgian  paper  Ulndtpendance  the 
following  account  of  M.  Heger. 


220      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 
L'lNDEPENDANCE 

"SAMEDI,  9  Mai,  1896. 
"  Schos  de  la  Ville 

"  M.  Constantin  Heger,  dont  nous  avons  annonce  la  mort, 
fut  un  homme  remarquable  dans  la  specialite  pedagogique 
qui  lui  fit  un  nom.  Nos  anciens  Font  connu  professeur  de 
septieme  a  1'Athenee  royal  de  Bruxelles.  Comme  il  avail 
fait  preuve  de  capacite"s  exceptionnelles  dans  cette  chaire 
modeste  et  p&illeuse,  il  fut  promu  professeur  de  quatrieme 
et  de  troisieme  fransaises  a  la  section  des  humanites,  et  ceux 
qui  passerent  alors  sous  sa  railleuse  ferule  peuvent  dire  sa 
conscience  professionnelle,  ses  meYites  de  lettre,  et  1'art  mer- 
veilleux  avec  lequel  il  interessait  a  ses  lecons  des  adolescents 
indisciplines.  Mais  le  pere  Heger,  comme  on  1'appelait  deja, 
homme  d'esprit  clair  et  de  jugement  sur,  se  fit  un  jour  ce 
raisonnement :  *  Sans  doute,  ce  que  je  fais  la  est  tres  bien, 
ce  n'est  meme  pas  mal  du  tout ;  mais  d'autres  s'en  tireraient 
comme  moi.  Rendons  nous  justice  :  si  je  suis  superieur, 
c'est  dans  les  classes  infe'rieures.  Done,  retournons  en 
septieme.'  Et  il  y  retourna. 

"  Etait-ce  de  la  modestie  ?  De  1'heroisme  plut6t.  II  en 
faut  pour  prdferer  une  tache  obscure  et  primaire,  dont  on 
s'acquitte  mieux  que  personne,  a  un  panache  rehaussant  une 
besogne  plus  releve*e  qu'on  accomplit  aussi  bien  que  tout 
le  monde.  Mais,  homme  d'£cole  jusqu'aux  moelles,  M.  Heger 
se  rendait  compte  des  difficult 6s  du  commencement.  Le 
commencement,  c'est  ce  que  nous  savons  le  mieux,  tous 
Petit- Jean  que  nous  sommes ;  mais  c'est  aussi  ce  qu'on  en- 
seigne  le  plus  malaise*ment.  Et  M.  Heger  y  excellait.  II 
eut  le  panache  tout  de  meme,  puisqu'il  fut  prefet  des  eludes 
de  rAth&ie*e  et  officier  de  1'Ordre  de  Leopold  ;  mais  son  titre 
le  plus  glorieux  est  le  talent  rare  qu'il  de"ploya  au  seuil  de 
son  e"cole  dans  cette  premiere  initiation  d'ou  dependent  pour 
Peleve  le  gout  du  travail  et  les  succes  de  1'avenir. 

"  Ce  talent  exerc6  par  Pexp6rience  et  un  constant  souci 
de  perfection  avait  pour  principe  un  don  pr^cieux,  une  sorte 


M.   HEGER'S  DEATH  221 

de  magnetisme  intellectual  a  1'aide  duquel  le  professeur  s'intro- 
duisait  dans  P  esprit  de  Peleve,  excitant  sa  curiosite,  la  tenant 
incessamment  en  6veil,  et,  pour  s'imposer  £  son  attention, 
utilisant  d'inspiration  toutes  les  ressources  d'une  nature 
g&ie"reuse  et  forte,  recourant  &  1'humeur  quand  le  pr6cepte 
faiblissait,  egayant  Paridite  de  la  lec.on,  secouant  la  grammaire, 
animant  la  syntaxe,  ne  d6daignant  aucun  artifice  pour  donner 
quelque  relief  aux  notions  qu'il  s'agissait  de  graver  dans  la 
me"moire,  et  cela  sans  perdre  un  instant  de  vue  le  but  e*ducatif 
de  Tinstruction.  Et  si  Ton  songe  a  la  multiplication  de 
Peffort  du  maitre  par  le  nombre  des  Sieves  et  la  varie"te*  de  leurs 
aptitudes,  on  devine  ce  qu'il  lui  fallait  de  charme  dans  1'auto- 
rite  pour  maintenir  attentive  et  amuse'e  une  classe  alors  plus 
peuptee  que  ne  sont  aujourd'hui  les  auditoires  de  nos  colleges. 


"  C'est  assez  dire  que  1'influence  pe*dagogique  de  Constantin 
Heger  fut  considerable. 

"  Hors  de  Pe"cole,  dans  la  famille  et  Parm'tie",  rhomme  e*tait 
plein  de  vie  et  d'oiiginalite*.  H  y  a  une  16gende  sur  son  c!6ri- 
calisme.  Catholique,  il  l^tait,  et  croyant,  et  profond^ment 
Chretien,  mais  sans  e"troitesse  ni  intolerance,  ayant  le  respect 
des  convictions  sinc£res  et  des  recherches  de  bonne  foi,  et 
partisan  re*solu  de  I'mtervention  scolaire  de  1'Etat. 


"  Quel  que  fut  son  grand  age,  sa  mort  n'en  laisse  pas  moins 
les  siens  en  proie  £  une  inconsolable  douleur  ;  mais  sa  longue 
carri£re  a  ete"  noblement  remplie,  et  il  en  reste  des  traces 
fe"condes  qui  perp6tueront  sa 


The  family  grave  is  in  the  cemetery  of  the  pretty  village 
of  Boisfort,  a  few  miles  from  the  centre  of  Brussels.  There, 
a  modest  gravestone,  weather-beaten,  except  where  it  is 
protected  by  a  small  tree  at  the  head,  covers  the  remains  of 
M.  and  Madame  Heger,  who  are  still  remembered  in  many 
parts  of  Belgium  for  their  long  and  meritorious  educational 
work  in  the  Belgian  capital, 


222      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Visiting  this  grave  only  a  few  weeks  ago,  I  found  it  in  the 
picturesque  cemetery  not  far  from  the  entrance.  The  little 
garden  that  surrounds  the  gravestone  looked  very  English  ; 
white  violets  were  in  bloom,  and  a  laurel  tree  sheltered  the 
upper  part  of  the  grave  from  the  sun. 

On  the  gravestone  are  the  following  inscriptions — 

"A  la  me'moire  de  Mademoiselle  Marie  Pauline  Heger,  ne'e 
a  Bruxelles  le  20  septembre  1837,  pieusement  de"cede"e  le  2  mars 
1886. 


"  Madame  Constantin  Heger  ne'e  Claire  Zoe'  Parent,  pieuse- 
ment d6cede~e  a  Bruxelles  le  9  Janvier  1890  a  Page  de  88  ans 

et  six  mois. 

*        *        *        *        * 

"  Monsieur  Constantin  Georges  Romain  Heger,  veuf  de 
Madame  Claire  Zoe  Parent,  ancien  Prefet  des  Etudes  de 
1'Athe'ne'e  Royal  de  Bruxelles,  officier  de  1'ordre  de  Leopold, 
n<§  a  Bruxelles  le  10  juillet  1809  et  deced<§  le  6  mai  1896." 

R.  I.  P. 


CHAPTER  XVIII 

THE  BRONTES'  EXPERIENCE  AT  THE  PENSIONNAT 

LIFE  at  the  Heger  Pensionnat  as  described  in  The  Professor — 
Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte"  are  offered  positions  as  governess 
pupils — Dr.  Wheelwright  and  his  family — Death  of  Julia  Wheel- 
wright— Death  of  Miss  Branwell — Her  will — Christmas  at  the 
Haworth  Vicarage — M.  Heger's  sympathy — His  opinion  of  Emily 
Bronte. 

IN  February,  1842,  the  Brontes  would  leave  the  diligence  at 
the  Porte  de  Flandres,  the  main  entrance  to  Brussels  in 
those  days,  armed  with  a  letter  of  introduction  from  a  Mr. 
Jenkins,  a  clergyman  who  lived  near  Haworth,  and  whose 
brother  was  the  English  chaplain  at  the  Embassy  in  Brussels. 
Mr.  Bronte  took  his  daughters  to  call  first  on  the  chaplain, 
who  afterwards  accompanied  them  to  the  pensionnat  of  Madame 
Heger,  which  was  to  be  their  home  for  the  next  eight  months. 
In  The  Professor  Charlotte  Bronte"  says,  "  I  felt  free  to  look 
up.  For  the  first  time  I  remarked  the  sparkling  clearness  of 
the  air,  the  deep  blue  of  the  sky,  the  gay  clean  aspect  of  the 
whitewashed  or  painted  houses ;  I  saw  what  a  fine  street 
was  the  Rue  Royale,  and,  walking  leisurely  along  its  broad 
pavement,  I  continued  to  survey  its  stately  hotels,  till  the 
palisades,  the  gates,  the  trees  of  the  park  appearing  in  sight 
offered  to  my  eye  a  new  attraction.  I  remember,  before 
entering  the  park,  I  stood  a  while  to  contemplate  the  statue 
of  General  Belhard,  and  then  I  advanced  to  the  top  of  the  great 
staircase  just  beyond,  and  I  looked  down  into  a  narrow  back 
street,  which  I  afterwards  learnt  was  called  the  Rue  d'Isabelle. 
I  well  recollect  that  my  eye  rested  on  the  green  door  of  a 
rather  large  house  opposite,  where  on  a  brass  plate,  was 
inscribed,  '  Pensionnat  de  Demoiselles.'  " 

Though  in  after  years  Madame  Heger  regretted  having 
admitted  the  Brontes  to  her  school,  feeling  naturally  very 
sore  about  the  caricature  in  Villette,  she  was  glad  to  remember 
she  gave  the  girls  a  very  hearty  welcome,  as  they  were  intro- 
duced by  the  English  chaplain,  although  he  was  not  a  Roman 
Catholic.  She  had  great  admiration  for  the  clergy  and  for  the 

223 


224      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

English  people,  and  the  fact  that  the  father  of  the  two  pupils 
was  an  English  clergyman  commended  them  to  her.  Charlotte 
Bronte's  letter  had  won  her  esteem,  and  she  claimed  to  have 
taken  an  interest  in  the  two  pupils  from  the  first ;  her  one 
attitude  towards  the  shy  English  girls  was  that  of  pity ;  she 
knew  they  were  motherless,  and  in  after  years  one  who 
knew  Madame  Heger  well  said  she  never  spoke  of  Charlotte 
but  with  compassion,  always  referring  to  her  as  "poor 
Charlotte."  Madame  Heger's  mother  was  named  Charlotte. 

After  having  paid  their  respects  to  Madame  Heger,  they 
had  the  pleasure  of  spending  a  few  hours  looking  round  Brussels 
before  the  father  said  "  Good-bye  "  after  spending  a  night  at 
the  residence  of  Mr.  Jenkins,  whom  Charlotte  Bronte*  after- 
wards referred  to  as  "  that  little  Welsh  pony  Jenkins." 

All  the  arrangements  with  the  Brontes  were  made  with 
Madame  Heger.  M.  Heger  did  not  even  put  in  an  appearance, 
and  Mr.  Bronte  never  saw  the  man  who  was  so  greatly  to 
influence  his  clever  daughters.  Hence  both  he  and  Miss 
Branwell  gave  the  girls  into  the  hands  of  Madame  Heger 
without  any  thought  of  her  husband,  and  it  is  very  questionable 
if  Mr.  Bronte'  ever  heard  much  of  him.  Paul  Emanuel  was 
merely  a  character  so  far  as  Mr.  Bronte  was  concerned  ;  hence 
his  anxiety  that  all  should  end  well  between  Paul  Emanuel 
and  Lucy  Snowe  in  Vittette.  But  Charlotte  Bronte,  with 
an  eye  to  the  original  Paul  Emanuel,  determined  that  no 
marriage  should  take  place.  The  conclusion  of  the  last 
chapter  in  Villette  is  one  of  the  choicest  pieces  of  word  painting 
in  the  English  language  ;  it  was  Charlotte  Bronte"  at  her  best, 
and  even  M.  Heger,  whatever  he  thought  of  the  story,  must 
have  been  proud  of  his  former  pupil,  and  as  "  her  master  of 
literature  "  must  have  recognised  the  beauty  of  her  diction 
and  her  ability  to  portray  character. 

Charlotte  Bronte,  finding  herself  at  the  Brussels  pensionnat, 
though  a  woman  of  twenty-six,  was  most  anxious  to  occupy 
her  place  as  a  pupil ;  both  she  and  Emily  were  conscientious 
and  exemplary  in  their  conduct.  "They  wanted  learning. 
They  came  for  learning.  They  would  learn."  So  determined 
were  they,  that  they  ignored  everything  else,  and  this  devotion 


FIRST  YEAR  AT  BRUSSELS  225 

to  work  and  desire  for  seclusion  may  account  to  some  extent 
for  their  lack  of  entire  association  with  the  other  pupils.  It 
is  evident  that  there  was  a  certain  amount  of  shyness  with 
strangers.  Mrs.  Jenkins  said  that  she  gave  up  asking  them 
to  her  home  on  Sundays  and  holidays  as  she  saw  that  it  gave 
them  more  pain  than  pleasure,  and  the  two  sons  of  Mrs. 
Jenkins — John  and  Edward — who  were  sent  to  the  pensionnat 
to  escort  the  Brontes  when  they  were  invited  to  their  home, 
declare  that  they  were  most  shy  and  awkward,  and  scarcely 
exchanged  a  word  with  them  during  the  journey.  In  the  home, 
Mrs.  Jenkins  said,  "  Emily  hardly  ever  uttered  more  than  a 
monosyllable,  and  Charlotte  was  sometimes  excited  sufficiently 
to  speak  eloquently  and  well — on  certain  subjects — but,  before 
her  tongue  was  thus  loosed,  she  had  a  habit  of  gradually 
wheeling  round  on  her  chair,  so  as  almost  to  conceal  her  face 
from  the  person  to  whom  she  was  speaking."  Their  taciturnity 
often  gave  offence  to  those  who  did  not  know  that  they  could 
not  help  it.  Charlotte  says,  "  I,  a  bondsman,  just  released 
from  the  yoke,  freed  for  one  week  from  twenty-one  years  of 
constraint,  must,  of  necessity,  resume  the  fetters  of  depen- 
dency." It  was  twenty-one  years  since  Mrs.  Bronte  died. 
"  Hardly  had  I  tasted  the  delight  of  being  without  a  master, 
when  duty  issued  her  stern  mandate,  *  Go  forth  and  seek 
another  service.'  " 

Charlotte  Bronte  was  very  happy  during  her  first  year's 
residence  at  Brussels.  Emily  pined  for  home,  but  kept  up 
her  determination  to  finish  the  year  at  the  pensionnat.  It 
speaks  well  for  the  two  sisters  that  at  the  end  of  six  months 
they  were  both  offered  the  position  of  governess  pupil ; 
Charlotte  was  to  teach  English,  and  Emily  was  to  be  assistant 
music  mistress,  for  during  those  few  months  she  had  made 
rapid  progress  in  French,  German,  drawing,  and  music,  as 
Charlotte  tells  us,  and  she  adds  with  a  degree  of  satisfaction, 
"  Monsieur  and  Madame  Heger  begin  to  recognise  the  valuable 
parts  of  her  character,  under  her  singularities." 

One  of  the  members  of  the  family  of  Dr.  Wheelwright,  who 
was  at  the  school  with  the  Brontes  in  1842,  testifies  that 
Charlotte  and  Emily  kept  themselves  aloof  from  the  other 

15— (2300) 


226      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

pupils,  always  walking  together  during  play  hours.  They 
spoke  with  a  marked  accent,  partly  Irish  and  partly  Yorkshire, 
which  to  the  Wheelwrights,  who  had  always  lived  in  London, 
sounded  strange  and  unfamiliar.  During  this  first  year 
at  school,  Charlotte  was  most  polite  and  kindly  disposed 
to  any  of  the  girls  who  spoke  to  her,  and  she  created  a 
favourable  impression,  though  there  were  difficulties  to 
overcome,  partly  owing  to  differences  in  religion.  Emily 
appears  to  have  produced  a  much  less  satisfactory  feeling 
in  the  minds  of  the  other  pupils.  Miss  Wheelwright  said  she 
was  reserved  and  made  no  effort  to  know  her  fellow-pupils. 
One  consequence  was  that  the  Wheelwrights  never  invited 
Charlotte  or  Emily  Bronte  to  their  home  in  the  Rue 
Roy  ale,  which  was  not  ten  minutes  walk  from  the  school, 
during  this  year.  Miss  Wheelwright  did  not  like  Emily. 
She  said  that  Emily  was  the  direct  opposite  to  Charlotte, 
who  was  always  neat  and  ladylike  in  appearance,  whilst 
Emily,  tall  and  ungainly,  always  looked  untidy,  though 
dressed  much  like  her  sister.  She  would  persist  in  wearing 
large  bell  sleeves,  or,  as  they  were  called  in  those  days,  leg 
of  mutton  sleeves,  wide  at  the  wrists.  When  the  pupils 
teased  her  about  her  appearance,  ^she  replied  with  much 
warmth,  "  I  wish  to  be  as  God  made  me."  Of  the  five 
daughters  of  Dr.  Wheelwright,  the  three  youngest  were  taught 
music  by  Emily  Bronte,  and  a  sad  time  they  had,  for  she 
would  only  take  them  for  lessons  during  their  play-hours,  so 
that  it  would  not  interfere  with  her  own  time  for  private  study. 
The  elder  Miss  Wheelwright,  when  in  the  playground,  could 
hear  Emily  Bronte  giving  instruction  to  her  sisters  in  music, 
and  she  was  very  indignant,  for,  if  the  teacher  did  not  mind 
missing  the  playtime,  the  little  Wheelwrights,  Frances,  Sarah 
Ann  and  Julia,  aged  ten,  eight  and  six  respectively,  had  no 
such  desire,  and  more  than  once  they  came  from  their  music 
lesson  in  tears.  Miss  Wheelwright  never  really  liked  Emily 
Bronte  [from  the  first  time  of  meeting  her.  The  Wheel- 
wrights used  to  say  that  she  never  tried  to  be  friendly  with 
them  or  with  Maria  Miller,  another  English  girl  whom  the 
Wheelwrights  were  very  fond  of.  Miss  Laetitia  Wheelwright 


SCHOOL  FRIENDS  227 

wore  a  gold  ring  set  with  garnets  which  Maria  Miller  gave  to 
her  in  1843.  Afterwards  Miss  Fanny  Wheelwright  treasured 
it  until  her  death.  One  of  the  souvenirs  of  the  Brussels 
schooldays,  treasured  by  Miss  Wheelwright,  was  the  parting 
lines  given  to  her  by  Charlotte  Bronte,  written  in  Dutch  and 
French  :  "  Think  of  me  as  I  always  shall  of  you.  Your 
friend,  Charlotte." 

All  the  time  that  Emily  was  at  school  with  Charlotte,  Miss 
Wheelwright  was  struck  with  Charlotte's  devotion  to  her 
sister,  though  she  thought  with  M.  Heger  that  Emily  tyrannised 
over  her  sister,  and  Miss  Wheelwright  confessed  to  being 
pleased  when  Emily  did  not  return  with  Charlotte  for  a  second 
year  at  the  pensionnat. 

It  is  pleasant  to  have  the  opinion  of  another  pupil,  who  was 
at  school  with  the  Brontes.  Mdlle  L.  de  Bassompierre,  who 
is  still  living  in  Brussels,  told  me  that  she  was  sixteen  when  the 
Brontes  went  to  Brussels,  and,  as  the  two  English  women  were 
put  in  her  class,  she  had  an  excellent  opportunity  of  observ- 
ing them,  especially  as  they  were  quite  friendly  with  her, 
although  she  was  a  Belgian.  Charlotte  Bronte  has  used  Mdlle 
de  Bassompierre's  name  in  Villette,  but  the  original  of  Paulina 
de  Bassompierre  is  not  taken  from  the  Belgian  friend. 

In  marked  contrast  to  Miss  Wheelwright  and  her  sisters, 
Mdlle  de  Bassompierre  had  most  praise  for  Emily  Bronte,  and 
she  said  she  considered  her  the  more  sympathetic  of  the  two, 
and  the  kinder  and  more  approachable  ;  indeed  she  much 
preferred  Emily  to  Charlotte,  and  so  did  some  of  the  other 
pupils;  she  was  much  better  looking,  though  pale  and  thin. 

The  Belgian  girl  and  Emily  became  friends  and,  before 
Emily  left,  she  gave  to  Mdlle  de  Bassompierre  a  drawing  in 
pencil  of  a  tree,  signed  Emily  Bronte.  This  Mdlle  de  Bassom- 
pierre has  treasured  for  over  seventy  years,  and,  like  everything 
that  Emily  did,  it  bears  the  stamp  of  good,  careful  work,  and  is 
remarkable  for  the  amount  of  detail  which  she  has  put  into  the 
simple  trunk  of  a  tree  with  its  branches.  It  is  evidently  done 
on  a  page  of  a  drawing  book  of  the  usual  size,  for  drawings  of 
Charlotte's  on  similar  paper  and  of  the  same  size  are  still  in 
existence. 


228        IN   THE  FOOTSTEPS   OF   THE   BRONTES 

Mdlle  de  Bassompierre  well  remembers  hearing  M.  Heger 
read  out  the  devoirs  written  by  Emily  and  Charlotte,  and 
Emily's  were  the  better.  She  also  had  a  recollection  of  Charlotte 
hotly  defending  Wellington,  in  a  discussion  on  the  French  and 
English.  Mdlle  de  Bassompierre  became  very  fond  of  Emily, 
and  considered  her  superior  to  Charlotte  in  every  way,  and 
certainly  more  sympathetic. 

Judging  by  the  results  of  the  instruction  given  to  the  younger 
sisters,  the  Wheelwrights  did  not  think  that  Emily  was  either 
a  good  musician  or  a  good  teacher,  but  they  were  much  too 
young  to  judge,  and,  whilst  they  were  devoted  to  Charlotte 
Bronte,  they  never  cherished  any  love  for  Emily.  Julia 
Wheelwright  died  of  typhoid  fever  whilst  a  day  pupil  at  the 
school  during  the  first  year  of  the  Bronte  residence.  After- 
wards Dr.  and  Mrs.  Wheelwright  allowed  their  four  daughters 
to  spend  a  month  at  the  pensionnat  whilst  they  had  a  holiday 
on  the  Rhine.  Miss  Laetitia  Wheelwright  cherished  for  years 
a  letter  which  she  received  from  Madame  Heger  after  the 
death  of  Julia  Wheelwright,  who  was  buried  in  the  Protestant 
part  of  the  Brussels  cemetery.  This  burial  ground  has  been 
demolished  and  the  remains  transferred  to  a  new  cemetery 
near  by.  Mrs.  Wheelwright  treasured  a  plan  of  the  cemetery, 
which  is  still  in  the  possession  of  her  granddaughter  (Mrs.  J.  J. 
Green,  of  Hastings),  on  which  is  marked,  with  a  cross,  the 
place  where  Julia  Wheelwright  was  buried. 

Madame  Heger's  letter  (translated)  is  as  follows — 

"  My  dear  Lsetitia, 

"  I  proposed  to  call  upon  your  mamma  yesterday  morning, 
but  I  have  been  unwell,  and  obliged  to  keep  to  my  room; 
To-day  I  am  better,  but  unable  to  go  out.  I  wish  none  the 
less  to  have  tidings  of  you.  How  is  your  mamma  ?  I  much 
fear  that  the  watching,  the  fatigue  and  sorrow  have  injured 
her  health.  Happily  all  the  children  are  so  good,  such  good 
pupils  that  she  will  find  the  care  of  them  some  compensation 
for  the  grievous  loss  she  has  sustained. 

"When  I  see  your  parents,  I  shall  tell  them  how  much 
I  appreciate  your  papa's  obliging  letter.  I  am  very  grateful 


DEATH  OF  JULIA  WHEELWRIGHT  229 

to  him  for  his  thought  of  us  in  so  sad  a  time,  which  will 
leave  here,  as  at  your  house,  long  traces.  The  little  angel 
whom  we  mourn  deserves  all  our  regrets.  Nevertheless,  we 
ought  to  acknowledge  that  she  is  sheltered  from  the 
misfortunes  and  sorrows  which  we  still  have  to  endure. 

"  Adieu  !  My  dear  Laetitia  !  Embrace  your  little  sisters 
for  me,  and  present  to  your  dear  parents,  whom  I  esteem 
more  each  day,  my  respectful  affection. 

"  Your  devoted 

"Z.  Hege 

"Monday,  21s/  September  (1842)." 

Miss  Frances  Wheelwright  told  me  that  Charlotte  Bronte 
admitted  that  she  was  attracted  to  Miss  Wheelwright  by  the 
look  on  her  face,  when  she  saw  her  standing  on  a  stool  in  the 
schoolroom,  looking  at  the  Belgian  girls — who  were  mis- 
behaving themselves — with  so  much  contempt  and  disdain. 
"  It  was  so  English,"  said  Charlotte  Bronte  ;  but  Mdlle  de 
Bassompierre  does  not  think  that  Charlotte  and  Emily  showed 
any  dislike  of  the  Belgian  girls. 

Madame  Heger  was  surprised  in  later  years  to  find  that  the 
Bronte  sisters  complained  of  their  school  days  with  her,  for 
they  were  not  without  English  friends.  There  were  the  two 
old  school  friends  from  Gomersal — Mary  and  Martha  Taylor — 
living  at  a  school  just  outside  Brussels,  where  the  Bronte's 
were  always  welcome.  They  also  visited  the  Dixons — friends 
and  relatives  of  the  Taylors — and  Mrs.  Jenkins,  the  wife  of 
the  chaplain  ;  but  the  isolation  in  which  the  Bronte  sisters 
dwelt  was  of  their  own  making. 

Prof.  Dimnet,  the  only  Frenchman  who  has  written  a  book 
on  the  Brontes,  says  in  Les  Sceurs  Bronte,  "  Her  (Charlotte 
Bronte)  greatest  luck  was  meeting  with  Monsieur  Heger," 
and  he  compares  what  M.  Heger  did  for  Charlotte  Bronte 
with  what  George  Henry  Lewes  did  for  George  Eliot.  Both 
were  married  men  when  they  met  the  future  famous  novelists, 
and,  whatever  may  be  said  to  the  contrary,  there  was  as  great 
an  affinity  between  Charlotte  Bronte  and  M.  Heger  as  between 


230      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

George  Eliot  and  George  Henry  Lewes,  though  Charlotte 
Bronte  fled  when  she  discovered  it,  rather  than  live  in  the 
same  house  as  M.  Heger.  In  Villette,  Paul  Emanuel  says  to 
Lucy  Snowe — 

" '  It  has  happened  to  me  to  experience  impressions — ' 

"  '  Since  you  came  here  ?  ' 

"  '  Yes  ;   not  many  months  ago.' 

"  *  Here  ?— in  this  house  ?  ' 

"  *  Yes.' 

"  Bon  !  I  am  glad  of  it.  I  knew  it,  somehow,  before  you 
told  me.  I  was  conscious  of  rapport  between  you  and  myself. 
You  are  patient,  and  I  am  choleric  ;  you  are  quiet  and  pale, 
and  I  am  tanned  and  fiery ;  you  are  a  strict  Protestant,  and 
I  am  a  sort  of  lay  Jesuit ;  but  we  are  alike — there  is  affinity 
between  us.  Do  you  see  it,  Mademoiselle,  when  you  look  in  the 
glass  ?  Do  you  observe  that  your  forehead  is  shaped  like 
mine — that  your  eyes  are  cut  like  mine  ?  Do  you  hear  that 
you  have  some  of  my  tones  of  voice  ?  Do  you  know  that  you 
have  many  of  my  looks  ?  I  perceive  all  this,  and  believe  that 
you  were  born  under  my  star.  Yes,  you  were  born  under 
my  star  !  Tremble  !  for  where  that  is  the  case  with  mortals, 
the  threads  of  their  destinies  are  difficult  to  disentangle  ; 
knottings  and  catchings  occur — sudden  breaks  leave  damage 
in  the  web.  But  these  '  impressions '  as  you  say,  with 
English  caution.  I,  too,  have  had  my  '  impressions'." 

Recently,  a  former  pupil,  Mrs.  Clarke,  in  an  interview  she 
granted  to  the  Daily  Mail,  states  that  M.  Heger  in  her  day 
could  tell  the  girls'  characters  from  their  faces. 

The  first  year  of  Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte's  stay  in  Brussels 
was  a  very  busy  one.  Charlotte  Bronte  tells  us  in  one  of  her 
letters  that  she  had  been  at  the  pensionnat  three  months 
before  M.  Heger  spoke  to  her  ;  he  merely  wrote  his  criticisms 
on  the  margin  of  her  devoir  and  he  was  puzzled  to  know 
why  her  composition  was  always  better  than  her  translation. 

"  The  fact  is,  some  weeks  ago,  in  a  high-flown  humour,  he 
forbade  me  to  use  either  dictionary  or  grammar  in  translating 
the  most  difficult  English  compositions  into  French.  This 
makes  the  task  rather  arduous,  and  compels  me  every  now 


POEM  IN   THE  PROFESSOR  231 

and  then  to  introduce  an  English  word,  which  nearly  plucks 
the  eyes  out  of  his  head  when  he  sees  it.  When  he  is  very 
ferocious  with  me  I  cry  ;  that  sets  all  things  straight.  Emily 
and  he  don't  draw  well  together  at  all.  Emily  works  like  a 
horse,  and  she  has  had  great  difficulties  to  contend  with — 
far  greater  than  I  have  had." 

M.  Heger  knew  that  the  two  women  had  come  to  Brussels  to 
prepare  themselves  for  taking  charge  of  a  school  afterwards, 
and  that  they  were  keenly  anxious  to  improve  their  education 
and  especially  to  become  proficient  in  French  and  German. 
He  was  a  model  teacher,  and  was  proud  to  have  such  intellectual 
women  as  pupils.  Miss  Wheelwright  told  me  that  he  made 
no  secret  of  his  admiration  of  the  intellectual  ability  of  the 
Bronte's.  Knowing  how  hard  they  would  have  to  work,  he 
never  spared  either  himself  or  them,  and  he  rendered  them 
most  willing  assistance. 

In  The  Professor  Charlotte  Bronte  gives  in  a  poem  a  very 
clear  account  of  her  life  as  a  pupil  at  the  Heger  Pensionnat. 
It  is  noticeable  that  the  heroine  of  the  poem  is  named  "  Jane  "  ; 
it  was  written  shortly  after  leaving  Brussels,  although  not 
published  until  some  ten  years  afterwards. 

This  poem  of  thirty-three  verses  tells  of  Charlotte's  life  at 
this  foreign  school,  and  when  she  decided  to  leave  Brussels 
M.  Heger  gave  her  a  kind  of  diploma,  dated  and  sealed  with 
the  seal  of  the  Ath6n6e  Royal  de  Bruxelles,  certifying  that 
she  was  perfectly  capable  of  teaching  the  French  language, 
having  well  studied  the  grammar  and  composition  thereof. 
This  certificate  is  dated  29th  December,  1843 ;  and  on 
2nd  January,  1844,  she  arrived  at  Haworth,  in  the  depths  of 
despair,  because  she  had  left  her  master.  In  the  light  of  the 
Bronte  letters  of  The  Times,  this  poem  is  interesting. 
Beginning  at  the  twenty-fourth  verse,  which  tells  of  Charlotte's 
departure  from  Brussels,  it  reads  as  follows — 


"  At  last  our  school  ranks  took  their  ground, 

The  hard-fought  field  I  won  ; 
The  prize,  a  laurel-wreath,  was  bound 
My  throbbing  forehead  on. 


232      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS   OF  THE  BRONTES 

Low  at  my  master's  knee  I  bent, 

The  offered  crown  to  meet ; 
Its  green  leaves  through  my  temples  sent 

A  thrill  as  wild  as  sweet. 

The  strong  pulse  of  Ambition  struck 

In  every  vein  I  owned ; 
At  the  same  instant,  bleeding  broke 

A  secret,  inward  wound. 

The  hour  of  triumph  was  to  me 

The  hour  of  sorrow  sore ; 
A  day  hence  I  must  cross  the  sea, 

Ne'er  to  recross  it  more. 

An  hour  hence,  in  my  master's  room, 

I  with  him  sat  alone, 
And  told  him  what  a  dreary  gloom 

O'er  joy  had  parting  thrown. 

He  little  said ;   the  time  was  brief, 

The  ship  was  soon  to  sail, 
And,  while  I  sobbed  in  bitter  grief, 

My  master  but  looked  pale. 

They  called  in  haste  ;  he  bade  me  go, 

Then  snatched  me  back  again ; 
He  held  me  fast  and  murmured  low, 

'  Why  will  they  part  us,  Jane  ? 

'  Were  you  not  happy  in  my  care  ? 

Did  I  not  faithful  prove  ? 
Will  others  to  my  darling  bear 
As  true,  as  deep  a  love  ? 

'  O  God,  watch  o'er  my  foster  child  ! 

O  guard  her  gentle  head ! 
When  winds  are  high  and  tempests  wild, 
Protection  round  her  spread ! 

'  They  call  again  ;   leave  then  my  breast ; 

Quit  thy  true  shelter,  Jane ; 
But  when  deceived,  repulsed,  opprest, 
Come  home  to  me  again  ! ' ' 

During  the  absence  of  Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte  in 
Brussels,  Miss  Branwell  and  her  brother-in-law  would  have 
had  a  peaceful  time  at  the  parsonage  but  that  Branwell  was 


DEATH  OF  MISS  BRANWELL  233 

still  at  home  without  any  hope  of  a  situation.  Anne  was  at 
Thorpe  Green.  It  was  at  this  time  that  Bran  well  was  writing 
miserable  letters  to  his  friends ;  his  aunt,  who  had  long  been 
disappointed  in  her  nephew,  had  her  last  days  clouded 
by  the  sad  conduct  of  her  favourite.  On  29th  October,  1842, 
Miss  Bran  well  died,  after  a  fortnight's  illness.  A  letter  was 
despatched  to  Charlotte  and  Emily,  and  one  also  to  Anne, 
who  reached  Ha  worth  just  too  late.  Her  father  and  brother 
met  her  in  the  little  hall  of  the  parsonage,  and  in  response  to 
her  anxious  enquiry  told  her  that  Miss  Bran  well  was  dead. 
Both  Branwell  and  Anne  grieved  much  for  the  loss  of  the 
aunt,  who  had  made  them  her  special  favourites,  and  to 
whom  she  had  been  partial  and  indulgent.  Charlotte  and 
Emily  got  the  sad  news  in  Brussels  that  their  aunt  was  ill  on 
2nd  November,  and,  before  they  could  get  ready  to  start  for 
home,  they  received  another  letter  to  say  that  she  was  dead. 
They  sailed  on  Sunday,  6th  November,  from  Antwerp,  travel- 
ling day  and  night,  and  reaching  Haworth  on  Tuesday — 
ten  days  after  Miss  Bran  well's  death — only  to  find  that  the 
funeral  was  over,  and  Mr.  Bronte  and  Anne  were  sitting  in 
quiet  grief  for  the  loss  of  one  who  had  been  of  such  service  in 
their  home  for  nearly  twenty  years. 

A  previous  writer  has  remarked  on  the  haste  with  which 
Miss  Branwell  was  buried,  but  allowance  had  to  be  made 
for  the  time  it  took  to  get  the  news  to  Brussels. 

Branwell,  anxious  to  give  expression  to  his  feelings  of  sorrow, 
wrote  to  his  friend  of  the  Luddenden  Foot  days,  Mr.  Francis 
Grundy,  saying  he  was  at  the  time  attending  the  death-bed  of 
his  aunt,  who  had  been  as  a  mother  to  him  for  twenty  years  ; 
and  on  the  next  day,  when  his  aunt  died,  he  wrote,  "  I  am 
incoherent,  I  fear,  but  I  have  been  watching  two  nights,  wit- 
nessing such  agonising  suffering  as  I  would  not  wish  my 
worst  enemy  to  endure;  and  I  have  now  lost  the  pride  and 
director  of  all  the  happy  days  connected  with  my  childhood." 

There  is  no  doubt  that  Branwell  felt  the  loss  deeply.  Miss 
Branwell  had  made  her  will  nine  years  previously,  when 
Branwell  was  her  pride,  and  she  had  made  Mr.  Bronte"  her 
first  executor.  Her  money  was  to  be  shared  among  her 


224      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

English  people,  and  the  fact  that  the  father  of  the  two  pupils 
was  an  English  clergyman  commended  them  to  her.  Charlotte 
Bronte's  letter  had  won  her  esteem,  and  she  claimed  to  have 
taken  an  interest  in  the  two  pupils  from  the  first ;  her  one 
attitude  towards  the  shy  English  girls  was  that  of  pity ;  she 
knew  they  were  motherless,  and  in  after  years  one  who 
knew  Madame  Heger  well  said  she  never  spoke  of  Charlotte 
but  with  compassion,  always  referring  to  her  as  "  poor 
Charlotte."  Madame  Heger's  mother  was  named  Charlotte. 

After  having  paid  their  respects  to  Madame  Heger,  they 
had  the  pleasure  of  spending  a  few  hours  looking  round  Brussels 
before  the  father  said  "  Good-bye  "  after  spending  a  night  at 
the  residence  of  Mr.  Jenkins,  whom  Charlotte  Bronte"  after- 
wards referred  to  as  "  that  little  Welsh  pony  Jenkins." 

All  the  arrangements  with  the  Brontes  were  made  with 
Madame  Heger.  M.  Heger  did  not  even  put  in  an  appearance, 
and  Mr.  Bronte"  never  saw  the  man  who  was  so  greatly  to 
influence  his  clever  daughters.  Hence  both  he  and  Miss 
Branwell  gave  the  girls  into  the  hands  of  Madame  Heger 
without  any  thought  of  her  husband,  and  it  is  very  questionable 
if  Mr.  Bronte'  ever  heard  much  of  him.  Paul  Emanuel  was 
merely  a  character  so  far  as  Mr.  Bronte  was  concerned  ;  hence 
his  anxiety  that  all  should  end  well  between  Paul  Emanuel 
and  Lucy  Snowe  in  Villette.  But  Charlotte  Bronte,  with 
an  eye  to  the  original  Paul  Emanuel,  determined  that  no 
marriage  should  take  place.  The  conclusion  of  the  last 
chapter  in  Villette  is  one  of  the  choicest  pieces  of  word  painting 
in  the  English  language  ;  it  was  Charlotte  Bronte"  at  her  best, 
and  even  M.  Heger,  whatever  he  thought  of  the  story,  must 
have  been  proud  of  his  former  pupil,  and  as  "  her  master  of 
literature  "  must  have  recognised  the  beauty  of  her  diction 
and  her  ability  to  portray  character. 

Charlotte  Bronte,  finding  herself  at  the  Brussels  pensionnat, 
though  a  woman  of  twenty-six,  was  most  anxious  to  occupy 
her  place  as  a  pupil ;  both  she  and  Emily  were  conscientious 
and  exemplary  in  their  conduct.  "They  wanted  learning. 
They  came  for  learning.  They  would  learn."  So  determined 
were  they,  that  they  ignored  everything  else,  and  this  devotion 


FIRST  YEAR  AT  BRUSSELS  225 

to  work  and  desire  for  seclusion  may  account  to  some  extent 
for  their  lack  of  entire  association  with  the  other  pupils.  It 
is  evident  that  there  was  a  certain  amount  of  shyness  with 
strangers.  Mrs.  Jenkins  said  that  she  gave  up  asking  them 
to  her  home  on  Sundays  and  holidays  as  she  saw  that  it  gave 
them  more  pain  than  pleasure,  and  the  two  sons  of  Mrs. 
Jenkins — John  and  Edward — who  were  sent  to  the  pensionnat 
to  escort  the  Brontes  when  they  were  invited  to  their  home, 
declare  that  they  were  most  shy  and  awkward,  and  scarcely 
exchanged  a  word  with  them  during  the  journey.  In  the  home, 
Mrs.  Jenkins  said,  "  Emily  hardly  ever  uttered  more  than  a 
monosyllable,  and  Charlotte  was  sometimes  excited  sufficiently 
to  speak  eloquently  and  well — on  certain  subjects — but,  before 
her  tongue  was  thus  loosed,  she  had  a  habit  of  gradually 
wheeling  round  on  her  chair,  so  as  almost  to  conceal  her  face 
from  the  person  to  whom  she  was  speaking."  Their  taciturnity 
often  gave  offence  to  those  who  did  not  know  that  they  could 
not  help  it.  Charlotte  says,  "  I,  a  bondsman,  just  released 
from  the  yoke,  freed  for  one  week  from  twenty-one  years  of 
constraint,  must,  of  necessity,  resume  the  fetters  of  depen- 
dency." It  was  twenty-one  years  since  Mrs.  Bronte  died. 
"  Hardly  had  I  tasted  the  delight  of  being  without  a  master, 
when  duty  issued  her  stern  mandate,  '  Go  forth  and  seek 
another  service.'  " 

Charlotte  Bronte  was  very  happy  during  her  first  year's 
residence  at  Brussels.  Emily  pined  for  home,  but  kept  up 
her  determination  to  finish  the  year  at  the  pensionnat.  It 
speaks  well  for  the  two  sisters  that  at  the  end  of  six  months 
they  were  both  offered  the  position  of  governess  pupil ; 
Charlotte  was  to  teach  English,  and  Emily  was  to  be  assistant 
music  mistress,  for  during  those  few  months  she  had  made 
rapid  progress  in  French,  German,  drawing,  and  music,  as 
Charlotte  tells  us,  and  she  adds  with  a  degree  of  satisfaction, 
"  Monsieur  and  Madame  Heger  begin  to  recognise  the  valuable 
parts  of  her  character,  under  her  singularities." 

One  of  the  members  of  the  family  of  Dr.  Wheelwright,  who 
was  at  the  school  with  the  Brontes  in  1842,  testifies  that 
Charlotte  and  Emily  kept  themselves  aloof  from  the  other 

13— (2300) 


236      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

peu  a  faire  avec  de  pareilles  eleves ;  leur  avancement  est 
votre  oeuvre  bien  plus  que  la  notre  ;  nous  n'avons  pas  eu  a 
leur  apprendre  le  prix  du  temps  et  de  1'instruction,  elles  avaient 
appris  tout  cela  dans  la  maison  paternelle,  et  nous  n'avons  eu, 
pour  notre  part,  que  le  faible  merite  de  diriger  leurs  efforts  et 
de  fournir  un  aliment  convenable  a  la  louable  activit6  que  vos 
filles  ont  puisee  dans  votre  exemple  et  dans  vos  Ie9ons. 
Puissent  les  eloges  me'rite's  que  nous  donnons  &  vos  enfants 
vous  etre  de  quelque  consolation  dans  le  malheur  qui  vous 
afflige  ;  c'est  la  notre  espoir  en  vous  e'crivant,  et  ce  sera, 
pour  Mesdemoiselles  Charlotte  et  Emily,  une  douce  et  belle 
recompense  de  leurs  travaux. 

"  En  perdant  nos  deux  chores  ele"  ves  nous  ne  devons  pas 
vous  cacher  que  nous  e*prouvons  a  la  fois  et  du  chagrin  et  de 
l'inquie*tude  ;  nous  sommes  afflige's  parceque  cette  brusque 
separation  vient  briser  1'affection  presque  paternelle  que  nous 
leur  avons  voue*e,  et  notre  peine  s'augmente  a  la  vue  de  tant  de 
travaux  interrompues,  de  tant  de  choses  bien  commencees,  et 
qui  ne  demandent  que  quelque  temps  encore  pour  etre  mene'es 
£  bonne  fin.  Dans  un  an,  chacune  de  vos  demoiselles  eiit 
e"te*  entitlement  pre*munie  contre  les  eventuality's  de  1'avenir ; 
chacune  d'elles  acqu6rait  a  la  fois  et  1'instruction  et  la  science 
d'enseignement ;  Mile  Emily  allait  apprendre  le  piano ; 
recevoir  les  lemons  du  meilleur  professeur  que  nous  ayons  en 
Belgique,  et  deja  elle  avait  elle-meme  de  petites  e"l£ves  ;  elle 
perdait  done  a  la  fois  un  reste  d'ignorance,  et  un  reste  plus 
g£nant  encore  de  timidite* ;  Mile  Charlotte  commenc.ait  a 
donner  des  Ie9ons  en  fran9ais,  et  d'acque"rir  cette  assurance,  cet 
aplomb  si  necessaire  dans  1'enseignement ;  encore  un  an  tout 
au  plus,  et  1'ceuvre  e*tait  acheve"e  et  bien  achev6e.  Alors 
nous  aurions  pu,  si  cela  vous  eiit  convenu,  offrir  &  mesde- 
moiselles  vos  filles  ou  du  moins  a  Tune  des  deux  une  position 
qui  eiit  e*te  dans  ses  gouts,  et  qui  lui  eut  donn6  cette  douce 
inde*pendance  si  difficile  a  trouver  pour  une  jeune  personne. 
Ce  n'est  pas,  croyez-le  bien,  monsieur,  ce  n'est  pas  ici  pour 
nous  une  question  d'inte're't  personnel,  c'est  une  question 
d'affection  ;  vous  me  pardonnerez  si  nous  vous  parlons  de 
vos  enfants,  si  nous  nous  occupons  de  leur  avenir,  comme 


-*--oc^e-«/    « 


LETTER   FROM    M.    HEGER   TO    REV.    P.    BRONTE 

1 842 


M.  HEGER'S  INTEREST  IN  THE  BRONTES    237 

si  elles  faisaient  partie  de  notre  famille ;  leurs  qualites  per- 
sonnelles,  leur  bon  vouloir,  leur  zfcle  extreme  sont  les  seules 
causes  qui  nous  poussent  a  nous  hasarder  de  la  sorte.  Nous 
savons,  Monsieur,  que  vous  peserez  plus  inurement  et  plus 
sagement  que  nous  la  consequence  qu'aurait  pour  1'avenir  une 
interruption  complete  dans  les  etudes  de  vos  deux  filles  ;  vous 
deciderez  ce  qu'il  faut  faire,  et  vous  nous  pardonnerez  notre 
franchise,  si  vous  daignez  consideYer  que  le  motif  qui  nous  fait 
agir  est  une  affection  bien  desinte'rressee  et  qui  s'affligerait 
beaucoup  de  devoir  deja  se  resigner  a  n'etre  plus  utile  a  vos 
chers  enfants. 

"  Agre"ez,  je  vous  prie,  Monsieur,  1'expression  respectueuse 
de  mes  sentiments  de  haute  consideration. 

"  C.  HEGER." 

When  it  is  remembered  that  this  letter  was  sent  by  a  man 
who  was  only  seven  years  older  than  Charlotte  Bronte,  and, 
although  we  is  used  throughout  the  letter,  there  is  no  direct 
mention  of  Madame  Heger,  it  is  very  certain  that  M.  Heger 
had  a  real  interest  in  the  Bronte  sisters,  and  his  mention  of 
" almost  paternal  affection "  and  of  "a  very  disinterested 
affection  "  shows  that  his  feelings  were  more  than  those  of  an 
ordinary  teacher.  Several  reasons  have  been  given  to  account 
for  Charlotte  Bronte's  return  to  Brussels,  but  no  previous 
writer  has  drawn  attention  to  this  letter,  which  proves  that 
Charlotte  was  the  one  to  whom  the  appointment  was  to  be 
offered  at  the  end  of  another  year.  Although  M.  Heger, 
in  conversation  with  Mrs.  Gaskell,  spoke  more  highly  of  Emily's 
abilities  and  talents  than  of  Charlotte's,  he,  evidently,  like 
Miss  Wheelwright,  preferred  that  Charlotte  should  return, 
though  it  showed  his  insight  and  ability  to  read  character 
when  he  told  Mrs.  Gaskell  that  he  rated  Emily's  genius  as 
something  even  higher  than  Charlotte's. 


CHAPTER  XIX 

CHARLOTTE   BRONTfe'S   SECOND   YEAR   AT   BRUSSELS 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  decides  to  return  to  Brussels — Her  journey  as 
described  by  Mrs.  Gaskell — Reference  in  Villette — Her  second  year 
at  the  Pensionnat — She  decides  to  return  to  Haworth — Various 
explanations — Charlotte  Bronte's  experience  used  in  her  novels — 
The  testimony  of  other  pupils  at  the  Pensionnat. 

AFTER  the  death  of  Miss  Branwell,  when  Anne  had  returned  to 
Thorpe  Green,  Charlotte  determined  to  go  back  to  Brussels, 
although  she  had  an  appointment  in  England  offered  to  her 
at  fifty  pounds  a  year.  In  Brussels  she  was  only  to  receive 
sixteen  pounds,  and  from  this  amount  she  would  have  to  deduct 
the  cost  of  the  journey,  and  also  the  charges  for  the  lessons 
in  German,  which  she  wished  to  take.  The  three  to  four 
hundred  pounds  left  to  each  of  the  sisters  gave  them  for  the 
first  time  in  their  lives  a  small  income,  and  possibly  this 
influenced  Charlotte  Bronte  in  accepting  a  small  salary,  as 
there  would  be  no  need  for  her  to  help  her  sisters. 

The  few  friends  that  Charlotte  Bronte  had  were  surprised 
that  she  should  have  returned  to  Brussels,  for  at  the  first 
visit  she  and  Emily  had  meant  to  stay  only  six  months,  but 
owing  to  their  rapid  progress  they  succeeded  in  being  retained 
as  governess  pupils,  and  for  that  reason  they  lengthened  their 
stay,  which  would  have  extended  to  Christmas,  if  Miss  Branwell 
had  not  died  ;  by  this  time  they  hoped  to  be  sufficiently 
proficient  in  French  and  German  to  teach  the  subjects  in  an 
English  school  of  their  own.  Then,  again,  Charlotte  had 
written  to  her  friends  disparaging  the  Belgians,  which  would 
seem  to  be  a  further  reason  for  not  returning  to  Brussels. 

Miss  BranwelTs  legacy  enabled  the  sisters  to  defer  for  a  time 
the  attempt  to  start  a  school  of  their  own,  and  it  became  also 
necessary  to  attend  to  the  needs  of  the  old  vicar.  There  has 
long  been  much  speculation  as  to  the  reasons  which  induced 
Charlotte  in  January,  1843,  to  decide  to  return  to  Brussels. 
It  is  argued  that  she  was  extremely  anxious  to  obtain  further 
lessons  in  German,  and  to  gain  experience  in  teaching  English. 

238 


SECOND  JOURNEY  TO  BELGIUM  239 

It  is  true  that  at  this  period  there  was  not  the  same  pressing 
need  to  earn  money.  The  lessons  in  German  cost  her  seven 
pounds  ten  shillings  a  year,  and  she  had  her  clothing  to  pur- 
chase and  other  incidental  expenses  to  meet,  so  that  she  was 
poorer  when  she  left  Brussels  than  when  she  arrived  there. 
From  a  monetary  standpoint,  her  visit  to  Brussels  was  a 
failure.  Some  of  her  friends  have  thought  there  must  have 
been  some  powerful  influence  attracting  her  to  Brussels,  but, 
in  a  letter  to  Ellen  Nussey  the  following  April,  she  repudiated 
the  idea  that  "  the  future  epoux  of  Mademoiselle  Bronte  "  was 
on  the  Continent,  and  she  sarcastically  scouted  the  idea  that 
she  had  any  more  powerful  motive  in  crossing  the  sea  merely 
to  return  as  teacher  than  respect  for  her  master  and  mistress — 
M.  and  Mme  Heger — and  gratitude  for  their  kindness. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  gives  an  interesting  account  of  Charlotte 
Bronte's  second  visit  to  Brussels. 

In  Villette  this  second  journey  from  London  to  Brussels  is 
described  very  minutely.  That  Charlotte  Bronte",  who 
heartily  despised  the  Roman  Catholic  Belgians,  and  "  hated 
and  abhorred  "  teaching  in  any  form,  should  voluntarily  cross 
the  North  Sea  in  January — bad  sailor  as  she  was — merely 
because  she  felt  grateful  to  M.  and  Madame  Heger  for  their  kind- 
ness to  her,  is  a  solution  to  a  problem  which  many  Bronte 
enthusiasts  decline  to  accept.  The  kind  letter  which  M. 
Heger  sent  to  the  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte  urging  him  to  allow  his 
daughters  to  return  to  Brussels  had  doubtless  something  to 
do  with  Charlotte  Bronte's  decision,  especially  as  she  was  the 
one  to  whom  an  appointment  in  the  school  was  to  be  offered, 
but  seeing  that  she  could  have  obtained  a  position  as  governess 
in  England  at  a  salary  of  fifty  pounds  a  year,  and  that  like 
Emily  she  could  have  studied  German  privately,  it  was  strange 
that  she  should  have  deliberately  chosen  to  go  to  Brussels. 
It  is  quite  evident  that  she  wished  to  go,  though  Mrs.  Gaskell 
spoke  of  the  two  sisters  when  at  Brussels  as  exiles. 

Of  Charlotte's  journey  to  London  in  January,  1843,  Mrs. 
Gaskell  has  given  a  good  account.  Charlotte,  arriving  late  in 
London,  took  a  cab  and  drove  straight  to  the  landing-stage 
at  London  Bridge,  instead  of  going  to  the  Chapter  Coffee  House, 


240      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTfiS 

as  she  intended,  for  fear  that  it  would  be  considered  unseemly 
for  a  woman  to  ask  for  bed  and  breakfast  at  so  late  an  hour. 

In  Villette  Charlotte  gives  a  most  graphic  account,  and  also 
of  the  voyage  when  she  meets  Ginevra  Fanshawe  on  board. 
Arriving  at  Brussels,  Charlotte  admits  she  was  received  most 
kindly,  and  in  one  of  her  letters  to  a  friend  she  speaks  of 
Madame  Heger  as  "  a  most  kind  lady." 

Emily  was  greatly  missed  and,  after  the  excitement  of  the 
arrival,  Charlotte  seems  to  have  experienced  loneliness,  though 
she  had  the  Taylors,  the  Dixons,  and  the  Wheelwrights  as 
kind  friends,  whom  she  was  invited  to  meet,  but  as  she  was 
now  a  teacher,  rather  than  a  pupil,  she  found  time  to  worry, 
and  become  depressed.  The  absence  of  Emily  made  all  the 
difference.  Until  the  summer  vacation,  Charlotte  managed 
to  keep  up,  but,  during  that  lonely  time,  she  succumbed  to 
melancholy.  There  was  a  reason  for  this  other  than  Emily's 
absence. 

Writing  to  Emily  a  month  before  her  return  from  Brussels 
she  says,  "  Low  spirits  have  afflicted  me  lately,  but  I  hope  all 
will  be  well,  when  I  get  home — above  all,  if  I  find  papa  and  you 
and  Bran  well  and  Anne  well.  I  am  not  ill  in  body  ;  it  is  only 
the  mind  that  is  a  trifle  shaken  for  want  of  comfort."  This 
letter  proves  that  the  father  had  nothing  to  do  with  Charlotte 
Bronte's  return.  Whatever  prompted  her  to  return  was 
something  connected  with  herself,  and  Mr.  Bronte  had  no  more 
to  do  with  it  than  any  other  member  of  the  family.  Mr. 
Shorter  affirms,  on  the  authority  of  Mr.  Nicholls  and  Ellen 
Nussey,  that  Charlotte  Bronte  returned  from  Brussels  because 
her  father  had  given  way  to  drink,  and  they  give,  as  a  reason 
for  her  second  stay  at  Brussels,  her  desire  for  further  instruction 
in  German,  or  as  one  writer  put  it  "  self -development."  Miss 
May  Sinclair  in  The  Three  Brontes  writes,  "With  her  aunt 
dead,  and  her  brother  Branwell  drowning  his  grief  for  his 
relative  in  drink,  and  her  father  going  blind,  and  beginning 
in  his  misery  to  drink  a  little  too,  Charlotte  felt  that  her 
home  did  require  her.  Equally  she  felt  that  either  Emily  or 
she  had  got  to  turn  out  and  make  a  living,  and  since  it  could 
not  be  Emily,  it  must  be  she."  This  is  not  at  all  true  to  fact. 


DEPRESSION  AFTER  LEAVING  BRUSSELS    241 

After  Miss  Branwell's  death,  Branwell  Bronte  was  at  home, 
sober  and  sensible,  and  during  the  whole  of  1843  whilst 
Charlotte  Bronte  was  at  Brussels  he  was  at  Thorpe  Green, 
where  Charlotte  tells  us  he  was  "  wondrously  valued" 
Branwell  kept  his  appointment  for  two  and  a  half  years,  from 
January,  1843,  until  July,  1845,  going  to  Scarborough  with 
the  Robinsons  in  the  summer  holidays.  Again,  if  it  was  a 
question  of  earning  a  living,  why  did  Charlotte  Bronte  refuse 
the  position  in  England  at  fifty  pounds  a  year  and  go  to  Brussels 
where  she  actually  lost  money  ?  Further,  although  Mrs. 
Gaskell  says  that  Charlotte  Bronte'  gave  to  M.  and  Madame 
Heger  as  excuse  for  leaving  "  her  father's  increasing  blindness," 
yet  in  her  letter  to  Emily  on  1st  December,  1843,  she  writes, 
"Tell  me  whether  papa  really  wants  me  very  much  to  come 
home,  and  whether  you  do  likewise.  I  have  an  idea  that  I 
should  be  of  no  use  there — a  sort  of  aged  person  upon  the 
parish."  The  letter  concludes,  "  Safety,  happiness  and 
prosperity  to  you,  papa  and  Tabby."  There  is  thus  no  refer- 
ence whatever  to  her  father's  blindness.  This  letter  was  only 
written  eighteen  days  before  she  writes,  on  19th  December, 
to  say  that  she  has  taken  her  determination,  and  means  to  be 
home  on  the  second  day  in  the  New  Year.  She  could  not 
have  felt  that  she  would  have  been  a  sort  of  aged  person  on 
the  parish  if  she  was  convinced  that  her  father  needed  her. 
There  is  nothing  in  Charlotte  Bronte's  letters  of  1844  to  in- 
dicate great  anxiety  about  her  father's  eyesight,  but  there  is  no 
enthusiasm  for  anything.  "  I  begin  to  perceive  that  I  have 
too  little  life  in  me  nowadays,  to  be  fit  company  for  any  except 
very  quiet  people.  Is  it  age,  or  what  else  that  changes  me  so  ?  " 

Although  she  said  in  her  last  letter  from  Brussels  that  she 
was  not  ill  in  body,  she  never  seemed  to  be  well  during  the 
first  year  after  leaving  Brussels.  There  were  constant  com- 
plaints of  depression  and  ill-health.  If  she  had  felt  that  she 
was  doing  her  duty  by  remaining  at  Haworth,  there  would 
have  been  no  reason  for  her  dissatisfaction. 

"  I  suffered  much  before  I  left  Brussels.  I  think,  however 
long  I  live,  I  shall  not  forget  what  the  parting  with  M.  Heger 
cost  me  ;  it  grieved  me  so  much  to  grieve  him,  who  had  been 


242      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

so  true,  kind  and  disinterested  a  friend."  It  is  noticeable 
that  Madame  Heger  is  not  mentioned. 

Madame  Heger  had  a  very  busy  life  with  her  school  and 
her  home,  and  Charlotte  Bronte  says  in  the  first  letter  after  her 
return  to  Brussels  in  January,  1843,  that  Madame  Heger 
received  her  very  kindly,  and  told  her  to  use  their  sitting-room 
as  her  own,  but  that  she  declined,  as  she  did  not  wish  to 
presume  on  their  kindness.  Evidently  Madame  Heger  had 
no  feelings  of  jealousy  at  the  beginning  of  the  year,  but  it 
may  have  developed  later ;  and  when  in  October,  1843, 
Charlotte  Bronte  gave  her  resignation  to  her,  she  agreed  to 
accept  it,  but  M.  Heger  stormed  and  would  not  let  her  go, 
and  she  consented  to  remain,  ultimately  leaving  at  the  begin- 
ning of  the  following  year.  It  is  certain  that  at  this  time  she 
was  suffering  from  acute  melancholia.  She  thanked  Mary 
Taylor  for  the  advice  she  gave  to  leave  Brussels,  and  some  tjme 
afterwards  she  sent  her  ten  pounds  for  the  service  she  had 
rendered. 

Assuming  that  Madame  Heger  was  not  anxious  for  Charlotte 
Bronte  to  remain,  why  was  she  so  very  miserable  at  leaving 
M.  Heger,  and  why  did  she  continue  to  be  so  depressed  and 
ill  when  at  home,  after  having  left  Brussels  ?  She  had  gained 
what  she  sought — a  good  knowledge  of  French  and  German, 
and  she  was  free  to  lead  her  own  life  at  Ha  worth.  Mrs. 
Gaskell  was  absolutely  wrong  in  attributing  "  her  (Charlotte's) 
now  habitual  sleeplessness  at  night "  to  "  Branwell's 
mysterious  and  distressing  conduct,"  for,  as  previously  men- 
tioned, Branwell  was  giving  no  cause  for  anxiety  for  a  year 
and  a  half  after  Charlotte  returned  ;  and  the  sleepless  nights 
and  bitter  tears  must  be  traced  to  some  other  source.  Mrs. 
Gaskell  tells  us  that  these  tears,  and  the  close  application  to 
minute  drawing  and  writing  in  her  younger  days,  "  were 
telling  on  her  poor  eyes."  At  this  time  Charlotte  Bronte 
wrote  several  letters  to  M.  Heger,  from  which  Mrs.  Gaskell 
quoted  extracts. 

In  one  dated  24th  July,  1844,  she  says— 

"  Now  my  sight  is  too  weak  to  write.     Were  I  to  write 


LETTERS  TO   FRIENDS  243 

much  I  should  become  blind.  This  weakness  of  sight  is  a 
terrible  hindrance  to  me.  Otherwise,  do  you  know  what  I 
should  do,  sir  ?  I  should  write  a  book,  and  I  should  dedicate 
it  to  my  literature  master — to  the  only  master  I  ever  had — 
to  you,  Sir.  I  have  often  told  you  in  French  how  much  I 
respect  you — how  much  I  am  indebted  to  your  goodness,  to 
your  advice  ;  I  should  like  to  say  it  once  in  English.  But 
that  cannot  be — it  is  not  to  be  thought  of.  The  career  of 
letters  is  closed  to  me — only  that  of  teaching  is  open.  It 
does  not  offer  the  same  attractions  ;  never  mind,  I  shall 
enter  it,  and  if  I  do  not  go  far  it  will  not  be  from  want  of 
industry  .  .  .  ' 

There  are  several  letters  to  other  friends  at  this  period,  but 
there  is  not  a  word  about  her  approaching  blindness,  which 
is  certainly  very  strange.  If  there  was  any  danger  to  Charlotte 
Bronte's  eyesight,  it  was  caused  by  "  the  tears  and  sleepless 
nights,"  the  result  of  fretting  her  heart  out  for  letters  from 
M.  Heger. 

A  letter  written  in  March  says,  "  Papa  and  Emily  are  well," 
and  a  letter  from  Bran  well  also  states  that  he  and  Anne  "  are 
pretty  well,"  so  that  nobody  in  the  home  circle  was  causing 
Charlotte's  misery.  Ellen  Nussey  and  Mary  Taylor — her 
only  correspondents  in  England — were  trying  to  cheer  her 
during  this  time  of  depression,  The  only  other  person  to 
whom  she  was  writing  was  M.  Heger,  and  her  letters  to  him 
showed  a  craving  for  pity  and  sympathy.  Mrs.  Gaskell 
seems  to  have  tried  to  shield  Charlotte  Bronte,  whilst  not 
hesitating  to  blame  Bran  well,  but,  as  he  was  not  the  cause 
of  the  trouble,  it  is  not  possible  to  arrive  at  any  other  con- 
clusion than  that  Charlotte  Bronte  left  Brussels,  when  she 
realised  she  had  unconsciously  found  her  affinity,  and  yet  she 
could  not  break  off  all  connection  with  the  Hegers.  Although 
much  has  been  said  about  Madame  Heger  being  the  cause  of 
Charlotte  Bronte's  leaving  Brussels,  yet  in  letters  to  M.  Heger 
Madame  Heger  is  referred  to  in  the  kindest  terms. 

Judging  by  the  extracts  given  by  Mrs.  Gaskell,  the  somewhat 
childish  letters  which  Charlotte  Bronte  sent  to  M.  Heger 


244      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

hardly  correspond  with  what  one  would  expect  a  woman  of 
nearly  thirty  to  write  to  a  married  man  a  few  yeais  older  than 
herself,  especially  if  she  considered  his  wife  was  jealous  of  her, 
or  if  the  wife  had  given  her  cause  to  think  so.  From  the  letters 
which  Mrs.  Gaskell  probably  saw,  connected  with  Charlotte 
Bronte's  experience  in  Brussels,  it  is  tantalising  to  get  only 
two  short  extracts.  It  is  evident  she  knew  more  than  she- 
was  willing  to  write,  and  was  merciful  to  her  friend,  and 
tactfully  avoided  offending  the  Hegers.  Since  the  above 
was  written,  four  letters  (two  of  which  contain  the  extracts 
mentioned)  were  published  in  The  Times  on  29th  July, 
1913. 

During  this  period,  Mrs.  Gaskell  used  the  Branwell  Bronte 
story  for  all  and  much  more  than  it  was  worth.  Though 
there  is  evidence  that  Mrs.  Gaskell  had  seen  the  four  letters 
now  published,  it  is  clear  that  Charlotte  Bronte  did  not  give 
the  real  reason  for  deciding  to  return  to  Haworth,  and,  although 
she  gave  Ellen  Nussey  to  understand  that  she  despised  Madame 
Heger,  she  conveys  quite  a  different  impression  in  her  letter 
to  M.  Heger.  Moreover,  there  is  not  a  line  or  a  word  to  support 
the  strange  theory  that  the  curate,  Mr.  Smith,  was  addicted 
to  the  drink  habit  and  had  influenced  the  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte 
to  such  an  extent  that  it  was  necessary  for  Charlotte  Bronte 
to  return  home.  When  Mr.  Smith  left  Haworth,  he  imme- 
diately got  an  appointment  at  Keighley,  which  is  only  four 
miles  away,  and  in  constant  communication  with  Haworth. 

Ellen  Nussey  wondered  why  the  Rev.  Patrick  Bronte 
should  have  been  so  anxious  that  Charlotte  should  write 
to  her,  after  her  visit  to  Haworth  in  January,  1844, 
and  immediately  after  Charlotte's  return  from  Brussels, 
to  explain  that  the  curate,  Mr.  Smith,  meant  nothing  by 
his  flirtation  with  her  (Ellen  Nussey).  Charlotte  Bronte  says 
she  cannot  understand  her  father  being  so  particular,  as  he 
was  usually  sarcastic  about  such  matters,  but  he  constantly 
insisted  that  she  must  write  to  her  friend.  This  rather  suggests 
that  he  had  discovered  the  reason  for  Charlotte  Bronte's 
return  to  Haworth,  and  he  probably  blamed  her  for  believing 
that  the  Hegers'  kindness  meant  anything  more  than  sympathy 


FAREWELL  TO  BRUSSELS  245 

for  her,  and  the  old  vicar  wished  to  save  Ellen  Nussey  from 
making  the  same  mistake  with  regard  to  Mr.  Smith. 

It  is  certainly  remarkable  that  Charlotte  Bronte  should  go 
to  Brussels,  and  lose  her  heart  to  the  master  of  the  house, 
and  that  Bran  well  Bronte  should  go  to  Thorpe  Green  at  the 
same  time  and  get  madly  in  love  with  the  wife  of  his  employer, 
thus  leading  to  his  summary  dismissal,  with  a  threat  from  the 
master  to  shoot  him  if  he  came  near  the  place  again ;  and, 
though  Charlotte  was  not  actually  dismissed,  it  is  a  fact  that 
Madame  Heger  gave  her  to  understand  that  she  would  not 
need  her  after  the  close  of  1843.  It  is  evident  that  both 
Charlotte  and  Branwell  were  much  alike  in  temperament,  and 
they  suffered  in  health  in  much  the  same  way.  Emily 
and  Anne  had  more  stability  of  character,  and  knew  how  to 
keep  their  own  counsel.  Both  Charlotte  and  Branwell 
were  excitable,  and  at  times  showed  a  great  want  of 
balance. 

Although  Branwell  never  wrote  a  novel  which  could  explain 
his  passion  for  Mrs.  Robinson,  everyone  knew  the  whole  story, 
though  Mrs.  Gaskell  made  too  much  of  it.  Brussels  was  the 
turning-point  in  Charlotte's  career,  and,  had  it  not  been  for  her 
residence  with  the  Hegers,  there  is  no  reason  to  suppose  we 
should  have  heard  anything  of  the  Bronte  novels.  Whilst  at 
Brussels,  Charlotte  Bronte  found  sufficient  material  for  all  the 
heroes  of  her  stories,  and  during  the  long  sleepless  nights, 
which  Mrs.  Gaskell  mentions,  she  was  wrestling  with  that 
experience  which  had  caused  her  to  leave  Brussels.  The 
tears  she  shed  at  parting,  and  her  weeping  during  those  long 
nights  after  Brussels  had  some  meaning.  Mrs.  Gaskell  tells 
us,  "  Both  M.  and  Madame  Heger  agreed  that  it  would  be  for 
the  best,  when  they  learnt  only  that  part  of  the  case  which 
she  could  reveal  to  them — namely,  Mr.  Bronte's  increasing 
blindness.  But  as  the  inevitable  moment  of  separation  from 
people  and  places,  among  which  she  had  spent  so  many  happy 
hours,  drew  near,  her  spirits  gave  way  ;  she  had  the  natural 
presentiment  that  she  saw  them  all  for  the  last  time,  and  she 
received  but  a  dead  kind  of  comfort  from  being  reminded  by 
her  friends  that  Brussels  and  Ha  worth  were  not  so  far  apart ; 


248      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Rebellious  now  to  blank  inertion, 
My  unused  strength  demands  a  task  ; 

Travel,  and  toil,  and  full  exertion 
Are  the  last,  only  boon  I  ask. 

The  very  wildness  of  my  sorrow 

Tells  me  I  yet  have  innate  force ; 
My  track  of  life  has  been  too  narrow, 

Effort  shall  trace  a  broader  course. 

He,  when  he  left  me,  went  a-roving 

To  sunny  climes  beyond  the  sea  , 
And  I,  the  weight  of  woe  removing, 

Am  free  and  fetterless  as  he. 

New  scenes,  new  language,  skies  less  clouded, 
May  once  more  wake  the  wish  to  live ; 

Strange  foreign  towns,  astir  and  crowded, 
New  pictures  to  the  mind  may  give. 

New  forms  and  faces,  passing  ever, 

May  hide  the  one  I  still  retain, 
Denned  and  fixed,  and  fading  never, 

Stamped  deep  on  vision,  heart  and  brain." 

In  a  poem  written  in  1844  and   recently  published  in  The 
Globe  appears  an  earlier  version  of  the  above. 
One  verse  reads — 

"  Devoid  of  charm  how  could  I  dream 
My  unasked  love  would  e'er  return  ; 
What  fate,  what  influence  lit  the  flame 
I  still  feel  inly,  deeply  burn  ?  " 

And  the  last  verse  gives  the  true  reason  why  Charlotte  Bronte 
left  Brussels — 

"  HaVe  I  not  fled  that  I  may  conquer  ? 
Crost  the  dark  sea  in  firmest  faith ; 
That  I  at  last  might  plant  my  anchor 
Where  love  cannot  prevail  to  death  ?  " 

Frances  in  The  Professor 'is  loved  by  her  teacher,  William 
Crimsworth,  as  Charlotte  Bronte  took  the  place  of  the  teacher. 
Years  afterwards,  in  conversation  with  an  English  lady, 


POEM  BY  CHARLOTTE  BRONTE      247 

Who  can  for  ever  crush  the  heart, 

Restrain  its  throbbing,  curb  its  life  ? 
Dissemble  truth  with  ceaseless  art, 

With  outward  calm  mask  inward  strife  ? 


For  me  the  universe  is  dumb, 

Stone-deaf,  and  blank,  and  wholly  blind ; 
Life  I  must  bound,  existence  sum 

In  the  strait  limits  of  one  mind ; 

And  when  it  falls,  and  when  I  die, 
What  follows  ?    Vacant  nothingness  ? 

The  blank  of  lost  identity  ? 

Erasure  both  of  pain  and  bliss  ? 

And  when  thy  opening  eyes  shall  see 

Mementos  on  the  chamber  wall, 
Of  one  who  has  forgotten  thee, 

Shed  not  one  tear  of  acrid  gall. 

The  tear  which,  welling  from  the  heart, 
Burns  where  its  drop  corrosive  falls, 

And  makes  each  nerve  in  torture  start, 
At  feelings  it  too  well  recalls  : 

These  I  have  drunk,  and  they  for  ever 
Have  poisoned  life  and  love  for  me ; 

A  draught  from  Sodom's  lake  could  never 
More  fiery,  salt,  and  bitter  be. 

Oh  !    Love  was  all  a  thin  illusion  ; 

Joy  but  the  desert's  flying  stream ; 
And  glancing  back  on  long  delusion, 

My  memory  grasps  a  hollow  dream. 

Vain  as  the  passing  gale,  my  crying ; 

Though  lightning  struck,  I  must  live  on  ; 
I  know  at  heart  there  is  no  dying 

Of  love,  and  ruined  hope,  alone. 

Still  strong  and  young,  and  warm  with  vigour. 

Though  scathed,  I  long  shall  greenly  grow  ; 
And  many  a  storm  of  wildest  rigour 

Shall  yet  break  o'er  my  shivered  bough. 


248      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

Rebellious  now  to  blank  inertion, 
My  unused  strength  demands  a  task  ; 

Travel,  and  toil,  and  full  exertion 
Are  the  last,  only  boon  I  ask. 

The  very  wildness  of  my  sorrow 

Tells  me  I  yet  have  innate  force ; 
My  track  of  life  has  been  too  narrow, 

Effort  shall  trace  a  broader  course. 

He,  when  he  left  me,  went  a-roving 

To  sunny  climes  beyond  the  sea , 
And  I,  the  weight  of  woe  removing, 

Am  free  and  fetterless  as  he. 

New  scenes,  new  language,  skies  less  clouded, 
May  once  more  wake  the  wish  to  live ; 

Strange  foreign  towns,  astir  and  crowded, 
New  pictures  to  the  mind  may  give. 

New  forms  and  faces,  passing  ever, 

May  hide  the  one  I  still  retain, 
Denned  and  fixed,  and  fading  never, 

Stamped  deep  on  vision,  heart  and  brain." 

In  a  poem  written  in  1844  and   recently  published  in  The 
Globe  appears  an  earlier  version  of  the  above. 
One  verse  reads — 

"  Devoid  of  charm  how  could  I  dream 
My  unasked  love  would  e'er  return  ; 
What  fate,  what  influence  lit  the  flame 
I  still  feel  inly,  deeply  burn  ?  " 

And  the  last  verse  gives  the  true  reason  why  Charlotte  Bronte 
left  Brussels — 

"  Have  I  not  fled  that  I  may  conquer  ? 
Crost  the  dark  sea  in  firmest  faith ; 
That  I  at  last  might  plant  my  anchor 
Where  love  cannot  prevail  to  death  ?  " 

Frances  in  The  Professor 'is  loved  by  her  teacher,  William 
Crimsworth,  as  Charlotte  Bronte  took  the  place  of  the  teacher. 
Years  afterwards,  in  conversation  with  an  English  lady, 


CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  MORAL  FORCE      249 

M.  Heger  stated  that  he  liked  his  little  English  pupil  (Charlotte 
Bronte")  but  she  had  a  warmer  feeling  for  him. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  was  evidently  puzzled,  and  if  she  had  dis- 
covered that  Bran  well's  conduct,  and  Mr.  Bronte's  increasing 
blindness  had  nothing  whatever  to  do  with  Charlotte's  sudden 
return  from  Brussels,  she  would  have  been  more  mystified. 
Evidently  Ellen  Nussey  could  not  help  her  to  solve  the  mystery, 
and  knowing  that  Mary  Taylor  corresponded  frequently  with 
Charlotte  Bronte"  Mrs.  Gaskell  wrote  to  her  in  New  Zealand. 
The  reply  did  not  help  to  solve  the  question.  If  she  had  only 
compared  the  dates  of  Ellen  Nussey 's  letters,  she  would 
have  seen  how  impossible  it  was  to  blame  Branwell.  It  is 
probable  that  no  character  in  literature  has  been  made  to  suffer 
more  for  supposed  misdeeds  than  Branwell  Bronte".  Whatever 
was  wrong  in  the  Bronte  household  or  the  Bronte  novels  has 
generally  been  attributed  to  him,  but  he  was  more  sinned 
against  than  sinning.  Charlotte  was  not  free  from  blame, 
for  she  could  have  kept  his  name  out  of  her  letters  to  Mr. 
Williams,  and  to  Ellen  Nussey.  Emily  would  have  scorned  to 
write  of  him  in  such  an  unsisterly  way,  and,  if  she  did  tell 
Charlotte  he  was  "  a  hopeless  being,"  it  was  Charlotte  who 
wrote  of  him  as  such.  Moreover,  the  interpretation  that  Emily 
put  upon  the  word  "  hopeless  "  possibly  meant  that  he  himself 
had  no  hope. 

This  leaving  Brussels  for  her  home  proved  the  greatest 
trial  of  her  life,  and  there  is  abundant  evidence  in  her  works 
of  the  moral  force  which  she  had  to  command  in  order  to  carry 
out  her  intention.  In  The  Professor,  which  it  is  well  to  remem- 
ber was  written  under  some  restraint,  and  before  Jane  Eyre, 
the  account  given  by  William  Crimsworth  of  his  leaving  a 
school  kept  by  Mdlle  Zoraide  Reuter  is  portrayed  in  language 
which  does  not  easily  or  suitably  fit  in  with  the  story  ;  and 
yet  Charlotte  Bronte"  seems  compelled  to  write  it,  as  the 
remembrance  of  leaving  Brussels  was  evidently  still  rankling 
in  her  mind.  William  Crimsworth  was  undoubtedly  Charlotte 
Bronte"  writing  under  a  man's  name,  which  puzzled  Mr. 
Williams  when  he  was  reading  the  MS.,  so  Mr.  Watts-Dun  ton 
tells  us.  The  Professor  is  so  different  from  Jane  Eyre,  that 


250      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

the  only  solution  seems  to  be  that  the  first  draft  of  it  was 
written  before  she  discovered  her  feelings  towards  M.  Heger. 
This  is  clearly  seen  when  "  her  "  is  changed  to  "  his." 

"  Her  present  demeanour  towards  me  was  deficient  neither 
in  dignity  nor  propriety  ;  but  I  knew  her  former  feeling  was 
unchanged.  Decorum  now  repressed,  and  Policy  masked  it, 
but  Opportunity  would  be  too  strong  for  either  of  these — 
Temptation  would  shiver  their  restraints. 

"  I  was  no  pope — I  could  not  boast  infallibility  ;  in  short, 
if  I  stayed,  the  probability  was  that,  in  three  months'  time, 
a  practical  modern  French  novel  would  be  in  full  process  of 
concoction  under  the  roof  of  the  unsuspecting  Pelet.  Now, 
modern  French  novels  are  not  to  my  taste,  either  practically  or 
theoretically.  Limited  as  had  yet  been  my  experience  of  life, 
I  had  once  had  the  opportunity  of  contemplating,  near  at  hand, 
an  example  of  the  results  produced  by  a  course  of  interesting 
and  romantic  domestic  treachery.  No  golden  tale  of  fiction 
was  about  this  example  ;  I  saw  it  bare  and  real ;  and  it  was 
very  loathsome.  I  saw  a  mind  degraded  by  the  practice  of 
mean  subterfuge,  by  the  habit  of  perfidious  deception,  and  a 
body  depraved  by  the  infectious  influence  of  the  vice-polluted 
soul.  I  had  suffered  much  from  the  forced  and  prolonged 
view  of  this  spectacle  ;  those  sufferings  I  did  not  now  regret, 
for  their  simple  recollection  acted  as  a  most  wholesome  antidote 
to  temptation.  They  had  inscribed  on  my  reason  the  con- 
viction that  unlawful  pleasure,  trenching  on  another's  rights, 
is  delusive  and  envenomed  pleasure — its  hollowness  disappoints 
at  the  time,  its  poison  cruelly  tortures  afterwards,  its  effects 
deprave  for  ever. 

"  From  all  this  resulted  the  conclusion  that  I  must  leave 
Pelet's,  and  that  instantly  ;  '  but,'  said  Prudence,  *  you  know 
not  where  to  go,  nor  how  to  live.'  ".  .  .  . 

"  My  hopes  to  win  and  possess,  my  resolutions  to  work  and 
rise,  rose  in  array  against  me  ;  and  here  I  was  about  to  plunge 
into  the  gulf  of  absolute  destitution  ;  '  and  all  this,'  suggested 
em  inward  voice,  '  because  you  fear  an  evil  which  may  never 
happen  !  '  *  It  will  happen  ;  you  know  it  will,'  answered  that 
stubborn  monitor,  conscience.  *  Do  what  you  feel  is  right  ; 


-ROMANTIC  TREACHERY'  251 

obey  me,  and  even  in  the  sloughs  of  want  I  will  plant  for  you 
firm  footing.' ' 

This  is  another  version  of  Jane  Eyre  leaving  Thornfield, 
but  it  has  been  added  to  The  Professor,  and  it  is  not  in  keeping. 

The  reference  to  a  course  of  "interesting,  romantic  treachery," 
which  Charlotte  Bronte  says  she  saw  "  near  at  hand,"  has  been 
attributed  by  previous  writers  to  a  Branwell  Bronte's  escapade 
at  Thorpe  Green.  Even  Francis  Leyland,  who  wrote  such  a 
warm  defence  of  this  ill-fated  brother  of  the  Brontes,  came 
to  the  same  conclusion.  Trying  to  excuse  Charlotte  Bronte 
he  says,  "  It  is  probable  that  Charlotte  would  not  have  wished 
this  passage  to  be  applied  literally  to  her  brother,  but  un- 
fortunately this  and  similar  unguarded  declarations  have 
largely  biassed  almost  all  who  have  written  on  the  lives  and 
literature  of  the  Bronte  sisters."  The  reference,  however, 
is  not  to  Branwell,  for  when  Charlotte  left  Brussels  Branwell 
was  doing  well  at  Thorpe  Green,  but  to  a  sad  case  of  domestic 
treachery  in  Haworth,  which  Mrs  Gaskell  gives  in  the  first 
and  second  editions  of  her  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  and  which 
was  deleted  in  the  third  edition  because  it  gave  great  pain  to 
the  members  of  the  family  concerned.  The  account  tells  of  a 
Yorkshire  manufacturer  betraying  his  young  sister-in-law, 
during  his  wife's  illness,  and  of  the  sad  suffering  of  the  poor 
girl.  Mrs.  Gaskell  stated  that  "  The  family  was  accursed  ; 
they  failed  in  business  or  they  failed  in  health." 

Between  the  time  when  Charlotte  Bronte  gave  in  her  resig- 
nation in  October,  1843,  to  Madame  Heger,  and  her  leaving 
Brussels  at  the  end  of  the  year,  Madame  Heger's  fifth  child 
was  born,  on  5th  November,  1843.  In  giving  the  account  of 
leaving  Brussels  in  Jane  Eyre,  the  heroine  says,  "  May  you 
never  appeal  to  heaven  in  prayer  so  hopeless  and  so  agonised 
as  in  that  hour  left  my  lips,  for  never  may  you,  like  me,  dread 
to  be  the  instrument  of  evil  to  what  you  wholly  love."  Char- 
lotte's grief  and  weak  health  affected  her  reasoning  powers 
at  this  time,  and  M.  Heger's  pity  was  misconstrued. 

Having  discussed  Madame  Heger's  methods  with  some  of 
her  former  pupils,  I  heard  nothing  but  praise  concerning  her  ; 
all  testified  to  her  goodness  of  heart,  and  think  of  her  with 


252      IN   THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

reverence.  Now  that  they  are  sufficiently  old  to  look  with 
matronly  eyes  on  her  cautious  ways,  they  understand  and 
appreciate  her  careful  scrutiny,  for  as  one  of  her  old  pupils — 
an  Englishwoman  and  a  Protestant,  like  Charlotte  Bronte* — 
said  to  me,  "  In  a  large  school  like  Madame  Heger's,  one  bad 
girl  might  work  a  great  deal  of  mischief ;  however  good  their 
credentials,  they  might  undermine  the  characters  of  the 
others.  More  than  once  before  the  Bronte's  went  to  this 
school,  Madame  Heger  had  been  deceived  by  girls,  and  her  one 
anxiety  was  for  the  excellent  reputation  of  her  school." 

Another  former  pupil,  a  Belgian,  who  had  been  at  school 
in  the  time  of  the  Brontes,  said,  "  Never  was  a  kinder  or  more 
motherly  woman  than  Madame  Heger.  All  her  old  pupils 
loved  her  and,  if  she  did  correct  us,  it  was  always  done  kindly ; 
she  was  never  a  spy,  nor  did  she  wish  to  pry  into  our  affairs." 

If  two  Belgian  women  of  twenty-six  and  twenty-four  years 
of  age  had  come  over  to  an  English  boarding  school  in  the 
early  Forties,  they  would  probably  have  been  treated  with  a 
certain  amount  of  suspicion,  and  might  not  have  fared  any 
better  than  the  Brontes  did  in  Brussels.  At  Haworth,  even 
twenty-five  years  ago,  new  residents  from  another  county 
were  stigmatised  as  foreigners.  The  Brontes  were  so  much 
older  than  the  other  pupils,  and  consequently  were  more 
difficult  to  deal  with  ;  at  their  age  they  ought  not  to  have 
been  pupils  in  any  school.  If  Madame  Heger  took  all  means 
possible  to  find  out  what  she  could  about  her  two  English 
boarders,  it  was  not  necessarily  to  satisfy  her  own  curiosity, 
but  to  assure  herself  that  they  were  not  likely  to  be  a  source 
of  trouble  in  her  management  of  the  school ;  she  was  only 
following  out  what  she  had  been  accustomed  to  in  her  own 
school  life.  She  was  an  experienced  and  successful  school- 
mistress, and  she  had  sufficient  knowledge  of  human  nature  to 
know  that  all  girls  are  not  above  suspicion.  She  had  had  too 
many  girls  in  her  school  to  be  willing  to  trust  the  Brontes 
implicitly  before  she  had  some  definite  grounds  to  build  upon, 
and  it  was  her  boast  that  girls  found  it  difficult  to  deceive  her. 
To  some  extent,  she  had  a  preference  for  English  girls,  for  she 
chose  an  English  nurse  for  her  children,  and  she  admitted  to 


MADAME    HEGER 

On  her  golden  wedding  day,  September  3,  1886 


VILLETTE  253 

Charlotte  Bronte  that  Belgian  girls  could  not  be  treated  with 
the  same  amount  of  confidence  as  was  reposed  in  pupils  in  an 
English  boarding  school. 

In  the  portrait  of  Madame  Heger  which  I  am  allowed  to 
publish,  taken  on  the  day  of  her  golden  wedding,  there  is  no 
indication  of  the  craftiness  which  Charlotte  Bronte  ascribed 
to  her.  Her  children  loved  her  passionately,  and  to  this  day 
they  reverence  her  memory  as  something  very  precious,  and 
feel  extremely  hurt  that  their  mother  should  have  been  por- 
trayed in  a  novel  with  their  native  city  as  a  setting.  Belgians 
generally  resent  Charlotte  Bronte's  criticism,  not  only  of  the 
Heger  family,  but  of  the  Belgian  people.  "  Base  ingratitude," 
"  cruel "  and  "  wicked  "  are  some  of  the  words  which  are 
hurled  at  the  writer  of  Villette,  even  to-day.  Mademoiselle 
Louise  Heger,  the  third  daughter  of  the  family,  who  figures 
in  Villette  as  Georgette,  was  a  general  favourite  with  the  pupils 
at  the  pensionnat,  and  was  nursed  by  Lucy  Snowe,  of  whom 
she  had  pleasant  thoughts,  but  she  was  only  four  and  a  half 
when  Charlotte  left  Brussels.  Another  sister,  still  living, 
is  Mademoiselle  Claire  the  third  daughter ;  she  was  a  child  of 
three  and  a  half  when  Charlotte  left. 

Mdlle  Claire  appears  in  Villette  as  Fifini  Beck.  "  It  was 
an  honest,  gleeful  little  soul,"  and  a  favourite  with  Lucy 
Snowe.  Mademoiselle  Marie,  the  eldest  daughter,  who  died 
2nd  March,  1886,  aged  forty-nine,  was  immortalised  by  Char- 
lotte Bronte'  as  Desiree  ;  she  was  six  years  old  when  Charlotte 
left  Brussels.  "  This  was  a  vicious  child.  Quelle  peste  que 
eette  De*sire*e  !  Quel  poison  que  cet  enfant-la  !  "  were  the 
expressions  used  to  describe  her,  both  in  the  kitchen  and  the 
schoolroom.  One  can  only  be  sorry  that  Charlotte  wrote 
this.  She  certainly  did  not  love  all  children. 

It  is  difficult  to  say  whether  Madame  Heger  was  influenced 
by  the  publication  of  Villette  ;  she  gave  up  the  school  some 
years  afterwards  to  her  daughters,  and  merely  acted  as  the 
house-mother,  treating  the  girls  with  much  consideration. 
One  of  her  old  pupils  told  the  writer  that  while  at  the  school 
she  wrote  some  poetry,  which  she  proudly  showed  to  Madame 
Heger,  thinking  she  would  be  pleased,  but  when  she  read  it, 


254      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS   OF  THE   BRONTES 

she  was  very  grieved,  because  she  despised  what  was  in  any 
way  sentimental,  having  no  love  for  poetry.  Almost  with 
tears  in  her  eyes,  and  putting  her  hands  on  the  girl's  shoulders, 
she  said,  "  Don't  dear  !  don't  write  poetry  ;  that  is  not  a 
girl's  work,  and  will  not  add  to  her  usefulness  as  a  woman." 

It  would  probably  not  be  an  advantage  to  the  Brontes 
in  the  eyes  of  the  practical  Madame  Heger  if  she  discovered 
that  they  were  interested  in  poetry  and  actually  wrote  poems. 
Emily  wrote  a  poem  whilst  in  Brussels,  judging  by  the  date 
given.  This  former  pupil  also  remarked  that  there  was  some 
reason  for  the  allee  def endue ;  it  was  a  part  of  the  grounds 
forbidden  to  the  pupils  because  there  was  a  boys'  playground 
just  beyond  the  clump  of  trees  at  the  end  of  the  alley,  and 
naturally  Madame  Heger  could  not  allow  communications  to 
pass  between  the  girls  of  her  school  and  the  boys  of  the  Athenee 
Royal.  Referring  to  Madame  Heger  as  a  spy,  this  pupil 
said  she  was  never  that,  she  wore  soft  slippers,  and  sometimes 
would  examine  the  girls'  drawers  and  boxes,  but  where  was 
the  harm  among  a  lot  of  school  girls  ? 

It  is  always  said  in  excuse  for  Charlotte  Bronte,  that  she 
particularly  wished  Villette  to  be  published  under  a  nom  de 
guerre,  probably  a  new  one,  for  it  was  well  known  in  the  literary 
world  before  Villette  was  issued  that  Currer  Bell  and  Charlotte 
Bronte  were  one  and  the  same ;  but  Mr.  George  Smith,  the 
publisher  of  all  Charlotte  Bronte's  novels,  had  an  eye  to  business, 
and  he  explained  to  her  that  the  tale  would  have  a  much 
greater  sale  if  it  were  issued  as  by  the  author  of  Jane  Eyre, 
which  had  made  such  a  name  for  the  writer.  Charlotte  Bronte 
yielded,  though  reluctantly,  but  she  only  gave  way  on  one 
condition,  that  on  the  title  page  should  be  printed,  "  The 
right  of  translation  is  reserved  "  ;  she  thought  that  if  the  novel 
was  not  translated  into  French  the  Hegers  would  not  get  it, 
thereby  proving  that  she  had  written  something  which  she 
did  not  wish  them  to  know.  She  knew  little  of  the  world, 
however,  to  think  that  such  a  shallow  precaution  would 
prevent  the  novel  crossing  the  North  Sea,  to  the  scene  of  its 
originals.  If  Madame  Heger  was  not  very  proficient  in  English, 
her  husband  was  a  fairly  good  English  scholar,  some  of  the 


VILLETTE  IDENTIFIED  255 

ability  in  this  being  due  to  Charlotte  Bronte  herself.  Madame 
Heger  also  employed  an  English  nurse,  and  English  girls 
were  received  at  the  school.  The  children  of  Madame  Heger 
also  became  good  English  scholars,  and  in  later  days  Villette 
came  into  their  hands.  It  was  not  long  before  the  persons, 
on  whom  the  characters  in  Villette  were  based,  were  recognised. 
Quite  recently  a  former  Belgian  pupil,  who  was  at  the 
pensionnat  with  the  Brontes,  showed  me  a  copy  of  Villette 
which  she  had  purchased  in  1853.  She  did  not  know  at  the 
time  that  it  referred  to  her  old  school,  but  she  was  both  amused 
and  indignant  when  she  discovered  that  it  had  been  written 
by  a  former  class-mate  and  pupil  of  the  school.  Having 
heard  both  Emily's  and  Charlotte's  devoirs  read  out  in  class, 
she  said  she  was  hardly  surprised  to  know  they  had  written 
books,  but  very  surprised  at  the  tone  of  Villette.  It  has  been 
said  that  on  the  publication  of  Villette  Madame  Heger  refused 
to  admit  further  English  pupils,  but  that  is  not  true.  The 
number  of  English  pupils,  however,  did  diminish  for  a  time, 
and  few  English  parents  were  willing  to  send  their  daughters 
to  the  school,  though  there  were  only  six  English  girls  there 
besides  the  Brontes  in  1843. 

Some  years  later,  one  girl  whilst  at  the  pensionnat,  unknown 
to  the  teachers,  obtained  a  copy  of  Villette  to  read,  and  became 
so  terrified  about  the  ghost  story  of  the  nun  (for  unfortunately 
she  did  not  finish  the  novel)  that  she  ran  away  from  school, 
and  could  not  be  persuaded  to  return.  Whatever  precautions 
were  taken,  it  was  inevitable  that  the  secret  could  not  long  be 
maintained,  and  both  Madame  Heger's  reputation  and  her 
school  suffered  to  some  extent  in  consequence. 

The  late  Abbe"  Richardson,  with  whom  I  had  an  interview 
in  July,  1910,  and  again  on  27th  July,  1913,  kindly  per- 
mitted me  to  quote  from  an  unpublished  lecture  which  he 
delivered  on  "  The  Brontes  in  Brussels  "  on  26th  February, 
1901,  in  the  old  Ravenstein  Hall  overlooking  the  Rue  d'Isabelle. 
Mr.  Richardson,  though  an  Englishman  and  a  great  admirer 
of  Charlotte  Bronte,  felt  it  necessary  to  defend  the  Hegers. 

"And  now  let  us  turn  to  M.  Heger.  We  may  at  once 
dismiss  the  idea  that  the  objectionable  M.  Pelet  (in  The 


256      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

Professor)  was  in  any  way  inspired  or  suggested  by  the  person 
of  her  beloved  Professor,  about  whom  she  always  wrote  and 
spoke  with  affectionate  respect.  But  with  regard  to  the 
character  of  M.  Paul  Emanuel  in  Villette,  the  case  is  quite 
different.  Anyone  who  reads  attentively  this  remarkable 
novel  cannot  fail  to  have  a  sort  of  intuitive  certainty  that  this 
carefully  drawn  character,  without  of  course  being  a  portrait, 
was  nevertheless  inspired  by  some  person  well  known  to  the 
author  ;  by  a  person  who  had  made  a  very  strong  and  very 
profound  impression  on  the  author,  and  even  by  a  person 
who  had  excited  in  the  author  a  deep  and  very  real  love.  The 
word  is  not  too  strong.  Whoever  the  prototype  of  Paul 
Emanuel  was,  Charlotte  Bronte  had  loved  him  with  all  the 
passionate  energy  of  her  warm,  if  suppressed  affections. 
Supposing  this  prototype  to  have  been,  as  I  have  little  doubt 
it  was,  M.  Heger,  there  is  nothing  in  the  least  discreditable  to 
Charlotte  Bronte's  memory.  We  are  none  of  us  masters  of 
our  heart's  sympathies,  and  no  one  who  has  studied  our 
authoress,  who  was  purity  itself,  can  imagine  that  her  enthu- 
siastic and  even  passionate  attachment  to  her  master  in  litera- 
ture was  tainted  or  disfigured  by  the  shadow  of  any  attempt 
or  desire  to  draw  to  herself  affections  which  were  pledged 
elsewhere.  It  comes  simply  to  this  :  her  love  and  affection 
had  been  excited  by  intercourse  with  a  singularly  beautiful 
and  sympathetic  nature,  and  she  thought  her  genius  had  the 
right  to  idealize  these  qualities,  and  to  create  from  them  a 
hero,  who  gained  the  heart  of  an  ideal  heroine  singularly 
like  herself.  I  do  not  think  we  can  deny  her  this  right,  although 
we  may  think  that  in  this  particular  case  she  did  not  use 
sufficient  tact  in  exercising  it.  However  this  may  be,  it  is 
impossible  for  anyone  who  knew  M.  Heger  not  to  recognise 
many  traits  of  his  amiable  character  in  the  person,  '  Us 
faits  et  gistes '  of  M.  Paul  Emanuel.  Both  Swinburne  and 
Wemyss  Reid  declare  that  Charlotte  Bronte's  sojourn  at 
Brussels  was  the  turning-point  in  her  career,  and  that  her 
affection  for  M.  Heger  was,  as  it  were,  a  match  which  set  fire 
to  the  mine  represented  by  the  hidden  and  latent  talents  of 
this  half  educated  country  girl  of  genius." 


TESTIMONY  OF  PUPILS  257 

That  Charlotte  Bronte  thoroughly  enjoyed  her  lessons  with 
M.  Heger  is  easy  to  understand,  because  she  could  enter  into 
the  spirit  of  his  enthusiasm  and  she  did  not  mind  hard  work, 
though  all  his  pupils  were  not  of  the  same  opinion.  I  once 
asked  a  former  English  pupil  her  opinion  of  M.  Heger,  and  she 
gave  it  quite  spontaneously.  "  I  did  not  like  him  ;  he  was  an 
irritable,  stern  man,  very  unjust,  and  not  at  all  the  man  to  have 
the  care  of  girls  ;  he  was  very  proud  of  any  clever  pupils,  who 
could  understand  and  enter  into  his  views  and  appreciations 
of  an  author ;  he  was  an  excellent  lecturer,  but  very  angry  if 
his  pupils  could  not  follow  him."  "  Once,"  said  my  informant, 
"  when  I  failed  to  grasp  the  meaning  of  a  passage  from  Racine, 
he  became  very  angry  and  I  turned  on  him  and  said,  '  If  I 
were  reading  a  passage  in  English  from  Shakespeare,  and 
you  failed  to  grasp  the  beauty  of  it,  I  should  not  turn  on  you 
and  get  into  a  temper.'  Feeling  the  justice  of  this  he  said  no 
more." 

In  discussing  Charlotte  Bronte's  opinion  of  Belgian  girls  with 
this  former  pupil  she  attributed  it  to  the  fact  that  M.  Heger 
was  so  hard  on  the  ordinary  Belgian  girl.  He  was  more  suited 
to  boys,  she  thought,  than  girls,  and  to  clever  pupils  rather 
than  to  those  of  average  ability.  In  his  defence,  she  was 
willing  to  admit  that  M.  Heger  was  a  man  of  genius,  and  often 
most  kind  to  his  pupils.  She  remembered  seeing  him  standing 
before  a  class  of  girls — who  were  terribly  afraid  of  him — 
shaking  with  rage  because  he  could  not  make  them  compre- 
hend his  meaning,  or  enter  into  his  enthusiastic  appreciation 
of  the  book  under  discussion.  Finally,  he  burst  into  tears, 
and  left  the  room  abruptly,  much  to  the  surprise,  but  also  to 
the  relief  of  his  pupils. 

"  Never  was  a  better  little  man,  in  some  points,  than  M. 
Paul ;  never  in  others  a  more  waspish  little  despot,"  said 
Charlotte  Bronte,  and  her  first  impression  of  him  as  given  in 
Villette  compares  very  well  with  that  of  his  other  pupils. 

The  late  Abbe"  Richardson,  whilst  agreeing  to  a  certain  extent 
with  Charlotte  Bronte's  picture  of  M.  Heger  in  Villette,  did  not 
think  that  Madame  Heger  had  much  resemblance  to  Madame 
Beck  in  Villette  and  Mademoiselle  Reuter  in  The  Professor. 

I7—(MOO) 


258      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

"  Madame  Heger,  the  directress  of  the  boarding-school  known 
to  the  Brontes,  was  utterly  unlike  either  Mademoiselle  Reuter 
[in  The  Professor]  or  Madame  Beck.  If  we  except  some  super- 
ficial resemblances  of  personal  prettiness  and  neatness,  noise- 
lessness  of  movement,  and  unvarying  placidity  of  temper, 
this  lady  was  utterly  unlike  in  every  particular  the  crafty 
and  unprincipled  woman  described  by  Charlotte  Bronte,  nor 
is  it  possible  to  imagine  that  our  authoress  ever  intended  any 
such  resemblance.  .  .  My  intimate  conviction  is  that  in 
Mdlle.  Reuter  and  Madame  Beck,  Charlotte  Bronte  had  not 
the  slightest  intention  of  representing  Madame  Heger's 
character,  but  it  is  quite  possible  that  the  slight  superficial 
personal  traits  of  resemblance  to  this  good  lady  which  she 
has  reproduced  in  her  very  objectionable  characters  were 
put  in  de  propos  delibere.  Charlotte,  with  all  her  genius,  was 
not  above  a  certain  spitefulness.  She  never  forgot  any  real, 
or  supposed  injury,  and  both  in  Shirley  and  in  Jane  Eyre  she 
gives  several  coups  de  pattes,  as  the  French  say,  some  very 
well  deserved,  to  persons  who  had  offended  her  or  her  sister.'* 

M.  Heger  was  very  much  offended  if  any  one  asked  him 
about  Villette ;  he  characterised  it  as  bien  vilain  for  Miss 
Bronte  to  have  written  of  her  Brussels  friends  in  that  way, 
though  he  was  quite  prepared  to  acknowledge  the  genius  of 
the  novel. 

In  trying  to  show  his  appreciation  of  Charlotte  Bronte's 
genius,  he  said  to  an  English  friend,  who  sympathised  with 
the  Hegers  because  of  the  account  in  Villette,  "  Mais,  c'est  le 
meilleur  vin  qui  fait  le  vinaigre  le  plus  acide." 

"  M.  Heger  was  very  fond  of  summing  up  his  opinions  in  a 
choice  phrase,  often  of  his  own  making,"  said  one  who  knew 
him  well. 


CHAPTER  XX 

WHY  CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  LEFT  BRUSSELS  SO  ABRUPTLY 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  life  and  Jane  Eyre — Her  picture  of  M.  Heger 
as  portrayed  in  Villette — Mary  Taylor's  advice — Charlotte  Bronte's 
regard  for  M.  Heger — View  of  love  in  Shirley  and  Jane  Eyre — 
Charlotte  Bronte's  conception  of  love — Her  "  irresistible  impulse  " 
to  return  to  Brussels  and  its  punishment — Her  novels  as  human 
documents — Miss  Winkworth  and  Paul  Emanuel — The  Rev.  A.  B. 
Nicholls — Publication  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  letters  to  M.  Heger 
in  The  Times — Reason  for  the  long  delay — M.  Heger's  loyalty  to 
Charlotte  Bronte. 

WRITING  to  Ellen  Nussey  soon  after  leaving  Brussels  for  the 
second  time,  Charlotte  says,  "  Something  in  me,  which  used 
to  be  enthusiasm,  is  tamed  down  and  broken.  I  have  fewer 
illusions  ;  what  I  wish  for  now  is  active  exertion — a  stake  in 
life.  Ha  worth  seems  such  a  lonely,  quiet  spot,  buried  away 
from  the  world."  Evidently  the  year  at  home  was  neither 
happy  nor  peaceful,  and  yet  Anne  and  Branwell  were  doing 
well  at  Thorpe  Green,  and  Emily  was  content  at  home.  The 
father,  also,  who  was  sixty-seven  years  of  age,  was  in  good 
health.  It  has  been  said  that  her  father's  increasing  blindness 
caused  Charlotte  to  give  up  her  work  at  Brussels.  Mary 
Taylor  says,  "  When  I  last  saw  Charlotte  (a  year  after  her 
return  from  Brussels)  she  told  me  she  had  quite  decided  to 
stay  at  home.  She  owned  she  did  not  like  it.  Her  health 

was  weak I  told  her  very  warmly,  that  she  ought  not 

to  stay  at  home ;  that  to  spend  the  next  five  years  at  home 
in  solitude  and  weak  health  would  ruin  her  ;  that  she  would 
never  recover  it.  Such  a  dark  shadow  came  over  her  face 
when  I  said,  '  Think  of  what  you'll  be  five  years  hence  ! '  that 
I  stopped  and  said,  c  Don't  cry,  Charlotte  ! '  She  did  not  cry, 
but  went  on  walking  up  and  down  the  room,  and  said  in  a 
little  while,  '  But  I  intend  to  stay,  Polly.'  " 

Again  Charlotte  Bronte  writes  :  "  There  was  a  time  when 
Haworth  was  a  very  pleasant  place  to  me  ;  it  is  not  so  now. 
I  feel  as  if  we  were  all  buried  here.  I  long  to  travel ;  to  work  ; 
to  live  a  life  of  action." 

259 


260      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

All  this  proves  that  the  lack  of  "  happiness  and  peace " 
after  her  return  from  Brussels  was  in  herself,  and  not  in  her 
home.  If  her  reason  for  leaving  Brussels  had  been  anxiety 
for  her  father,  she  would  have  found  happiness  and  peace  in 
attending  to  his  wants,  and  the  company  of  Emily  ought  to 
have  prevented  her  from  complaining  of  solitude.  Moreover, 
if  she  found  that  she  was  doing  what  her  conscience  approved, 
she  would  surely  have  had  a  measure  of  contentment,  and  not 
have  experienced  "  total  withdrawal  of  happiness  and  peace  of 
mind." 

Mrs.  Gaskell  seems  to  have  been,  on  more  than  one  occasion, 
on  the  verge  of  tracking  Charlotte  Bronte's  love  story,  but, 
whatever  conclusions  were  formed  personally,  she  left  the 
matter  for  speculation  by  her  readers,  seeing  that  Jane  Eyre  was 
first  published  as  an  autobiography,  edited  by  Currer  Bell.  A 
close  acquaintance  with  Charlotte  Bronte's  life  shows  that  the 
story  was  largely  her  own  experience,  though  fictitious  names 
are  introduced.  The  sequence  of  events  runs  parallel  with 
Charlotte  Bronte's  life,  and  the  more  that  life  is  examined 
the  closer  it  agrees  with  the  life  portrayed  in  Jane  Eyre  :  the 
death  of  her  mother,  which  left  her  in  charge  of  her  aunt,  whom 
she  did  not  love  :  the  decision  to  send  her  to  school  at  Lowood  : 
her  appointment  as  teacher,  though  at  another  school :  her 
visit  to  Brussels,  which,  for  obvious  reasons  is  "  Thornfield," 
where  Jane  Eyre  was  a  governess,  though  instead  of  having  a 
class  she  had  charge  of  one  pupil :  her  friendship  with  "  the 
master,"  the  title  by  which  M.  Heger  became  known  to  her  : 
the  dangerous  position  which  this  friendship  soon  assumed : 
Charlotte  Bronte's  departure  from  Brussels,  because  of  her 
aunt's  death,  just  as  Jane  Eyre  left  Thornfield  :  her  return 
to  the  impatient  master  :  his  kindly  welcome  and  her  delight 
in  returning  :  the  danger  period  when  she  finds  a  reason  for 
her  joy  on  returning  to  Thornfield :  the  flight  from  Thorn- 
field,  which  is  the  most  dramatic  part  of  the  story,  and  which 
Charlotte  Bronte  told  Mrs.  Gaskell  was  the  part  that  appeal* 
to  her  most  when  writing  the  novel.  "  When  she  came  t< 

*  Thornfield  '  she  could  not  stop on  she  went  writing 

incessantly  for  three  weeks ;  by  which  time  she  had  carried 


CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  LOVE  STORY         261 

her  heroine  away  from  c  Thornfield  '  and  was  herself  in  a  fever 
which  compelled  her  to  pause."  After  Thornfield  comes  Morton 
and  Charlotte  Bronte's  visit  to  Hathersage  and  her  return  to  her 
blind  father  at  Ha  worth.  It  is  on  the  strength  of  the  passionate 
love  story  in  Jane  Eyre  and  Villette  that  Charlotte  Bronte's 
fame  stands. 

Miss  Sinclair  does  not  believe  that  Charlotte  Bronte's  life 
is  revealed  in  her  novels,  and  she  remarks  that,  if  Jane  Eyre 
and  Lucy  Snowe  are  to  stand  for  Charlotte  Bronte,  then  Mrs. 
Humphry  Ward  may  be  said  to  be  the  prototype  of  her 
heroine,  "  Eleanor,"  and  by  that  mischievous  arrangement  no 
novelist  is  safe  ;  but  in  opposition  to  this  view,  it  must  be 
remembered  that  Charlotte  Bronte'  and  Mrs.  Humphry  Ward 
are  two  very  different  novelists,  standing  on  two  different 
planes.  No  one  has  ever  assumed  that  Mrs.  Humphry  Ward's 
characters  are  in  any  way  a  reflection  of  her  own  life.  Charlotte 
Bronte  wrote  of  what  she  had  experienced,  whilst  Mrs. 
Humphry  Ward  draws  mainly  upon  her  imagination  and 
observation.  If  Charlotte  Bronte's  heroines  are  creations, 
they  follow  closely  real  personages. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  was  so  much  baffled  by  Charlotte  Bronte's 
stories,  that  she  once  asked  her  if  she  ever  took  opium,  as 
depicted  in  Villette;  Mrs.  Gaskell  evidently  wondered  if  this 
would  give  the  clue. 

It  has  been  argued  that  the  incident  of  Jane  Eyre  hearing 
Rochester's  voice  was  copied  from  Moll  Flanders,  but  there  is 
no  evidence  that  Charlotte  Bronte  had  read  Defoe's  novel. 

It  has  been  repeatedly  said  that  Charlotte  Bronte  never 
expressed  anything  more  than  friendship  for  M.  Heger  :  if 
that  had  been  so,  she  would  never  have  given  the  soul-stirring 
love  scenes  in  her  novels.  When  Harriet  Martineau,  at 
Charlotte  Bronte's  request,  candidly  criticised  Villette,  she 
was  so  much  hurt  that  she  quietly  severed  the  friendship, 
which  once  seemed  to  her  well  worth  keeping.  Harriet 
Martineau's  review  in  the  Daily  News  of  3rd  February,  1853, 
is  long  and  intensely  critical,  and  its  aim  seems  to  be  that 
of  literary  adviser.  Seeing  that  Charlotte  Bronte"  had  published 
three  novels,  and  that  Miss  Martineau  had  only  published 


262      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

Deerbrook  and  had  submitted  another  novel  to  Messrs.  Smith 
Eider,  which  they  refused,  the  role  she  adopted  was,  to  say 
the  least,  anything  but  kind,  especially  as  she  professed  to  be 
a  friend  of  Currer  Bell. 

Miss  Martineau  begins  by  saying,  "  Everything  written  by 
Currer  Bell  is  remarkable,  she  can  touch  nothing  without 
leaving  on  it  the  stamp  of  originality." 

Thus  with  regard  to  the  characters  she  writes — 

"  All  the  female  characters,  in  all  their  thoughts  and  lives, 
are  full  of  one  thing,  or  are  regarded  by  the  reader  in  the  light 
of  that  one  thought — love.  It  begins  with  the  child  of  six 
years  old,  at  the  opening — a  charming  picture — and  it  closes 
with  it  at  the  last  page  :  and,  so  dominant  is  this  idea — so 
incessant  is  the  writer's  tendency  to  describe  the  need  of  being 
loved,  that  the  heroine,  who  tells  her  own  story,  leaves  the 
reader  at  last  under  the  uncomfortable  impression  of  her 
either  having  entertained  a  double  love,  or  allowed  one  to 
supersede  another  without  notification  of  the  transition. 
It  is  not  thus  in  real  life.  There  are  substantial,  heartful 
interests  for  women  of  all  ages,  and  under  ordinary  circum- 
stances, quite  apart  from  love  ;  there  is  an  absence  of  intro- 
spection, an  unconsciousness,  a  repose  in  women's  lives — unless 
under  peculiarly  unfortunate  circumstances — of  which  we 
find  no  admission  in  this  book  :  and  to  the  absence  of  it  may  be 
attributed  some  of  the  criticism  which  the  book  will  meet  with 
from  readers  who  are  no  prudes,  but  whose  reason  and  taste 
will  reject  the  assumption  that  events  and  characters  are  to  be 
regarded  through  the  medium  of  one  passion  only." 

In  the  reply,  Charlotte  Bronte  says  :  "  I  know  what  love  is 
as  I  understand  it ;  and  if  man  or  woman  should  be  ashamed 
of  feeling  such  love,  then  is  there  nothing  right,  noble,  faithful, 
truthful,  unselfish  in  this  earth,  as  I  comprehend  rectitude, 
nobleness,  fidelity,  truth  and  disinterestedness."  If  we 
take  this  standard  in  connection  with  the  love  of  a  woman  for 
another  woman's  husband,  it  sounds  far  too  bold,  but  it  must 
be  remembered  that  Charlotte  Bronte  found  her  heart's  secret 
when  it  was  too  late,  and,  though  she  fled,  she  had  her  battle 


CHARLOTTE'S   CONCEPTION  OF  LOVE        263 

to  fight,  for  her  conception  of  love  was  not  merely  the  love  of  a 
woman  for  a  man,  but  of  the  knitting  of  one  soul  to  another. 
In  answer  to  Shirley's  question  about  love,  Caroline,  who  is 
more  Charlotte  Bronte  than  matter-of-fact  Ellen  Nussey, 
replies,  "  Love,  a  crime  !  No,  Shirley  : — love  is  a  divine 
virtue  .  .  .  obtrusiveness  is  a  crime  ;  forwardness  is  a  crime  ; 
and  both  disgust :  but  love  ! — no  purest  angel  need  blush  to 
love  !  And  when  I  see  either  man  or  woman  couple  shame  with 
love,  I  know  their  minds  are  coarse,  their  associations 
debased." 

All  her  novels  are  human  documents,  and  they  contain  the 
very  life-blood  of  the  writer,  and  that  is  why  they  have  made 
the  name  of  Bronte  immortal.  Harriet  Martineau,  writing 
in  the  Daily  News  on  6th  April,  1856,  after  Charlotte  Bronte's 
death,  said  :  "  Charlotte  Bronte  had  every  inducement  that 
could  have  availed  with  one  less  high-minded  to  publish  two  or 
three  novels  a  year.  Fame  waited  upon  all  she  did,  and  she 
might  have  enriched  herself  by  very  slight  exertion,  but  her 
steady  conviction  was,  that  the  publication  of  a  book  is  a 
solemn  act  of  conscience,  in  the  case  of  a  novel  as  much  as 
any  other  book.  She  was  not  fond  of  speaking  of  herself 
and  her  conscience,  but  she  now  and  then  uttered  to  her  very 
few  friends  things  which  may,  alas  !  be  told  now,  without  fear 
of  hurting  her  sensitive  nature  ;  things  which  ought  to  be 
told  in  her  honour.  Among  these  sayings  was  one  which 
explains  the  long  interval  between  her  works.  She  said  that 
she  thought  every  delineation  of  life  ought  to  be  the  product 
of  personal  experience  and  observation  ;  experience  naturally 
occurring,  and  observation  of  a  normal  and  not  of  a  forced 
or  special  kind.  '  I  have  not  accumulated  since  I  published 
Shirley?  she  said,  '  what  makes  it  needful  for  me  to  speak 
again,  and  till  I  do,  may  God  give  me  Grace  to  be  dumb.' ' 

With  regard  to  Charlotte  Bronte's  statement  that  she  had 
not  accumulated  since  Shirley,  it  may  be  asked,  "  What  about 
Shirley's  successor,  Villette  ?  "  It  must  be  remembered  that 
she  had  written  a  novel,  The  Professor,  dealing  with  the  Brus- 
sels life  of  Emily  and  herself,  before  she  wrote  Jane  Eyre,  and, 
after  she  had  made  her  name  as  a  writer,  she  had  hoped  that 


264      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Messrs.  Smith,  Elder  &  Co.  would  publish  it.  It  was  at  a 
later  period  that  she  wrote  Villette — a  much  greater  novel  than 
The  Professor,  and  dealing  more  fully  with  her  own  life  in 
Belgium.  Some  of  her  experience,  however,  had  been  gained 
before  she  wrote  Shirley,  and  there  is  certain  evidence  that 
suggests  that  Charlotte  visited  Brussels  a  third  time.  If  the 
Professor  had  been  accepted  in  Charlotte  Bronte's  lifetime, 
Villette  might  never  have  been  written,  and  thus  a  great  novel 
would  have  been  lost  to  the  world,  for  her  three  novels  deal 
with  all  the  places  in  which  she  lived,  and,  as  The  Professor  was 
rejected,  there  was  thus  room  for  a  distinctly  Brussels  story. 

Mr.  Shorter,  and  more  recently  Miss  May  Sinclair,  have 
laboured  hard  to  dismiss  the  idea  that  Charlotte  Bronte"s 
love  scenes  are  founded  on  actual  experience,  but  Mr.  Shorter 
stumbles  twice  in  quoting  the  words  written  to  Ellen  Nussey 
in  1846,  which  have  been  brought  forward  more  than  once  to 
prove  that  something  happened  in  Charlotte  Bronte's  last  year 
at  Brussels  that  caused  her  to  write  :  "  I  returned  to  Brussels 
after  aunt's  death  against  my  conscience,  prompted  by  what 
then  seemed  an  irresistible  impulse.  I  was  punished  for  my 
selfish  folly  by  a  total  withdrawal  for  more  than  two  years 
of  happiness  and  peace  of  mind."  In  the  Haworth  Edition  of 
The  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  Mr.  Shorter,  in  a  foot-note  on  page 
319,  quotes  this  passage,  but  he  substitutes  the  words  total 
hindrance  for  total  withdrawal  ;  and  in  The  Brontes  :  Life  and 
Letters,  page  255,  Vol.  I,  he  again  quotes  the  passage,  but  leaves 
out  the  word  total.  His  reason  for  quoting  in  the  last  instance 
is  to  explain  that  Miss  Nussey  and  Mr.  Nicholls  interpreted 
the  passage  to  mean  that  Charlotte  Bronte  had  left  "her 
father  to  over-conviviality,"  and  "  her  brother  took  some 
further  steps  towards  the  precipice  over  which  he  was  destined 
to  fall."  That  Branwell  had  nothing  to  do  with  Charlotte's 
return  I  have,  I  hope,  proved. 

With  regard  to  her  novels  being  human  documents,  Charlotte 
Bronte  settles  the  matter  herself  in  a  letter  she  wrote  to  Mr. 
W.  S.  Williams  in  1848,  in  which  she  discussed  the  characters 
in  her  novels  :  "  Details,  situations  which  I  do  not  understand 
and  cannot  personally  inspect,  I  would  not  for  the  world 


LETTERS  TO  M.   HEGER  265 

meddle  with,  lest  I  should  make  even  a  more  ridiculous  mess 
of  the  matter  than  Mrs.  Trollope  did  in  her  Factory  Boy. 
Besides,  not  one  feeling  on  any  subject,  public  or  private,  will  I 
ever  affect  that  I  do  not  really  experience" 

Charlotte  Bronte  returned  to  Brussels  in  1843  against  her 
conscience  and  against  the  wishes  of  her  family  and  friends. 
She  lost  rather  than  gained  money  by  her  decision,  and  both 
she  and  Emily  had  borrowed  money  from  Aunt  Branwell  to 
enable  them  to  study  French  and  German  in  order  to  be 
capable  of  starting  a  private  school  in  England.  Charlotte  was 
determined,  impulsive,  and  to  a  certain  extent  wilful,  but  she 
turned  to  good  account  her  experience  in  Brussels ;  she  went 
to  Brussels  to  be  trained  for  the  profession  of  teaching,  but  she 
was  unconsciously  trained  for  her  role  as  novelist.  All  her 
heroes  are  akin  ;  all  have  something  of  the  foreigner  about  them 
and  have  travelled  and  known  more  of  the  world  than  the 
ordinary  men — mostly  curates — that  Charlotte  Bronte  met. 
She  had  only  one  model,  and  that  was  M.  Heger.  She  told 
her  life  story  in  her  novels,  and  she  was  too  genuine  to  hide  the 
tragic  love  passion  that,  unsought,  entered  into  her  life.  Such 
was  her  temperament  that  she  could  not  help  herself  ;  she 
reverenced  literary  people  who  had  great  intellectual  ability  and 
large-heartedness,  and  these  qualities  she  found  in  M.  Heger. 

In  the  chapter  in  Shirley  entitled  "  The  first  blue-stocking," 
where  Miss  Keeldar  refuses  to  marry  for  money,  her  uncle 
assures  her  that  she  has  a  preference  for  "  any  literary  scrub  or 
shabby,  whining  artist,"  and  she  replies  :  "  For  the  scrubby, 
shabby,  whining  I  have  no  taste  ;  for  literature  and  arts  I 
have." 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  LETTERS  TO  M.  HEGER 

The  four  letters  from  Charlotte  Bronte'  to  M.  Heger,  published 
in  The  Times  on  29th  July,  1913,  though  announced  as 
"  the  lost  letters  of  Charlotte  Bronte,"  have,  in  fact,  never 
been  lost.  They  were  seen  by  Mrs.  Gaskell  in  1856,  and  M. 
Heger  remarked  that  she  had  made  a  very  discreet  use  of  them, 
and  he  suggested  that  she  should  ask  Mr.  Nicholls  or  Mr. 
Bronte  for  the  letters  he  had  sent  to  Charlotte  Bronte',  which 


266      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

he  was  sure  she  had  retained  on  account  of  the  advice  which 
they  contained.  I  have  known  where  The  Times'  letters  were 
for  many  years,  and  have  corresponded  with  the  family  as  to 
the  advisability  of  publishing  them. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  seems  never  to  have  had  an  opportunity  of 
seeing  the  letters  which  M.  Heger  sent  to  Charlotte  Bronte, 
but,  as  previously  stated,  she  knew  more  of  Charlotte's  heart 
secret  regarding  M.  Heger  than  she  disclosed.  If  Mr.  Nicholls 
obtained  possession  of  the  letters  from  M.  Heger,  it  is  very 
certain  he  would  not  wish  to  have  them  published  ;  indeed, 
his  policy  throughout  had  been  to  ignore  the  Heger  corre- 
spondence, and  hence  his  wish  to  give  a  reason  for  Charlotte 
Bronte's  return  from  Brussels  in  1844,  which  has  been  proved 
to  be  untrue. 

The  old  Vicar  was  not  in  his  daughter's  confidence,  and  he 
would  not  be  likely  to  know  anything  of  her  correspondence  ; 
it  is  quite  possible  that  she  destroyed  the  letters  herself.  In 
Chapter  XXIII  of  Vittettc,  Lucy  Snowe  teUs  of  five  letters 
"  traced  by  the  same  firm  pen,  sealed  with  the  same  clear  seal, 
full  of  the  same  vital  comfort.  Vital  comfort  it  seemed  to 
me  then  :  I  read  them  in  after  years  ;  they  were  kind  letters 
enough — pleasing  letters,  because  composed  by  one  well- 
pleased  ;  in  the  two  last  there  were  three  or  four  closing 
lines  half-gay,  half-tender,  '  by  feeling  touched,  but  not  sub- 
dued.' Time,  dear  reader,  mellowed  them  to  a  beverage  of 
this  mild  quality  ;  but  when  I  first  tasted  their  elixir,  fresh 
from  the  fount  so  honoured,  it  seemed  juice  of  a  divine  vintage  : 
a  draught  which  Hebe  might  fill,  and  the  very  gods  approve. 

"  Does  the  reader,  remembering  what  was  said  some  pages 
back,  care  to  ask  how  I  answered  these  letters  :  whether 
under  the  dry,  stinting  check  of  Reason,  or  according  to  the 
full,  liberal  impulse  of  Feeling  ? 

"To  speak  truth,  I  compromised  matters;  I  served  two 
masters  ;  I  bowed  down  in  the  house  of  Rimmon,  and  lifted 
the  heart  at  another  shrine.  I  wrote  to  these  letters  two 
answers — one  for  my  own  relief,  the  other  for  Graham's 
perusal."  M.  Heger  was  the  original  for  certain  phases  of 
Graham's  or  Dr.  John's  life. 


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ANXIETY   FOR  LETTERS  267 

In  Chapter  XXIV,  headed  "  M.  de  Bassompierre,"  Charlotte 
Bronte  lays  bare  her  thoughts  at  the  time  Lucy  Snowe  was 
hungering  for  letters.  She  tells  of  studying  hard  at  German 
and  reading  "  the  driest  and  thickest  books  in  the  library  " 
in  order  to  appease  her  anxiety  for  letters.  She  says  "  the 
result  was  as  if  I  had  gnawed  a  file  to  satisfy  hunger,  or  drank 
brine  to  quench  thirst." 

"  My  hour  of  torment  was  the  post  hour.  Unfortunately, 
I  knew  it  too  well,  and  tried  as  vainly  as  assiduously  to  cheat 
myself  of  that  knowledge  :  dreading  the  rack  of  expectation, 
and  the  sick  collapse  of  disappointment  which  daily  preceded 

and  followed  upon  that  well-recognised  ring The  letter 

— the  well-beloved  letter — would  not  come  ;  and  it  was  all 
of  sweetness  in  life  I  had  to  look  for." 

Later  in  the  chapter  Lucy  Snowe  receives  a  letter  from 
"  La  Terrasse,"  which,  for  the  time  being  is  Brussels,  and, 
instead  of  coming  from  Dr.  John,  as  she  hoped,  it  was  from 
his  mother.  The  disappointment  is  very  graphically  described, 
and  even  in  reading  the  chapter  it  is  difficult  to  understand 
why  the  writer  should  betray  such  agony  at  not  receiving  a 
letter  from  Dr.  John.  After  moralizing  on  her  long  starvation 
from  the  want  of  letters  she  concludes,  "In  all  the  land  of 
Israel  there  was  but  one  Saul — certainly  but  one  David  to 
soothe  or  comprehend  him." 

M.  Heger's  name  was  Romain  Constantin  Georges  Heger. 
In  Villette  it  is  Paul  Carl  David  Emanuel. 

It  is  easy  to  see  in  the  light  of  The  Times  letters  that 
Charlotte  Bronte  was  suffering  mentally,  and  she  likens 
herself  to  Saul  and  M.  Heger  to  David,  who  was  the  only  one 
with  power  to  soothe  her. 

Charlotte  Bronte  lived  her  life  over  again  in  her  books.  She 
wrote  Villette  for  the  professor  and  told  her  innermost  thoughts, 
but  she  says  in  Villette,  "I  disclaim  with  the  utmost  scorn  every 
sneaking  suspicion  of  what  are  called  '  warmer  feelings ' ; 
women  do  not  entertain  these  *  warmer  feelings '  where, 
from  the  commencement,  through  the  whole  progress  of  an 
acquaintance,  they  have  never  once  been  cheated  of  the 
conviction  that  to  do  so  would  be  to  commit  a  mortal  absurdity." 


268      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

The  name  that  she  gives  to  her  passion  is  "  a  closely  clinging 
and  deeply  honouring  attachment — an  attachment  that  wanted 
to  attach  to  itself  and  take  to  its  own  lot  all  that  was  painful 
in  the  destiny  of  its  object." 

Regarding  the  letters  that  were  sent  she  writes,  "  The  doors 
of  my  heart  would  shake,  bolt  and  bar  would  yield.  Reason 
would  leap  in  vigorous  and  revengeful,  snatch  the  full  sheets, 
read,  sneer,  erase,  tear  up,  re-write,  fold,  seal,  direct,  and  send 
a  terse,  curt  missive  of  a  page."  This  accounts  for  the  differ- 
ence between  the  letters  and  her  books.  All  her  life  she  had 
been  in  love  with  an  ideal,  and  to  a  greater  extent,  perhaps, 
Emily  had  had  a  similar  experience  ;  their  early  manuscripts 
prove  this. 

For  the  time  being,  M.  Heger  was  Charlotte's  ideal,  and, 
although  she  calls  her  feelings  by  the  name  "  friendship," 
she  was  in  love  with  M.  Heger,  and  she  knew  it,  but  she  never 
had  any  wish  to  draw  his  affection  from  his  wife  and  children. 
She  had  returned  to  Brussels  a  second  time  because  she  could 
not  help  herself ;  she  lived  for  her  master  and  she  could  not 
bear  her  life  without  him,  and  if  possible  she  would  have 
returned  a  third  year. 

Mr.  Shorter  thinks  those  letters  with  their  heart-throbs  are 
very  similar  to  Charlotte's  letters  to  Mr.  Williams.  On  the 
one  hand  she  was  dying  for  letters  from  M.  Heger,  whilst  she 
closed  her  correspondence  with  Mr.  Williams  voluntarily. 

It  is  well  to  remember  that  Charlotte  Bronte  was  twenty- 
eight,  and  M.  Heger  was  thirty-five,  when  this  correspondence 
was  going  on,  so  that  it  could  not  be  the  ordinary  schoolgirl 
worship  pictured  by  several  writers.  It  was  the  passionate 
attachment  of  a  woman  for  a  man  a  few  years  older  than 
herself.  Well  might  Madame  Heger  object  to  this  intellectual 
woman  of  nearly  thirty  writing  to  her  husband,  who  was 
five  years  younger  than  herself,  since  she  was  at  this  time 
forty  years  of  age.  It  is  affirmed  that  the  writing  in  pencil 
on  one  of  Charlotte's  letters,  now  in  the  British  Museum, 
proves  that  M.  Heger  had  no  interest  in  Charlotte,  but  the 
writing  is  not  that  of  M.  Heger. 

Judging  from  Villette  (which,  as  more  and  more  of  Charlotte's 


MARIE  JOSEPHINE  NOYER  289 

life  is  revealed,  proves  to  be  autobiographical)  it  seems  safe  to 
assume  that  M.  Heger  had  told  Charlotte  something  of  his  love 
for  his  first  wife,  whose  name  was  Marie  Josephine  Noyer  ; 
she  died  on  26th  September,  1833,  after  three  years  of  happy 
married  life. 

The  death  of  his  young  wife  in  1833  was  a  terrible  blow,  and 
almost  overwhelmed  him,  and  such  was  the  depth  of  his 
despair  that  it  was  feared  he  would  lose  his  reason  or  his  life. 
In  speaking  to  Lucy  Snowe,  Paul  Emanuel  says  :  "  Don't 
suppose  that  I  wish  you  to  have  a  passion  for  me,  Mademoiselle  ; 
Dieu  vous  en  garde  !  What  do  you  start  for  ?  Because  I  said 
passion  ?  Well,  I  say  it  again.  There  is  such  a  word,  and 
there  is  such  a  thing — though  not  within  these  walls,  thank 
Heaven  !  You  are  no  child  that  one  should  not  speak  of  what 
exists ;  but  I  only  uttered  the  word — the  thing,  I  assure  you, 
is  alien  to  my  whole  life  and  views.  It  died  in  the  past^— in 
the  present  it  lies  buried — its  grave  is  deep  dug,  well  heaped, 
and  many  winters  old  :  in  the  future  there  will  be  a  resur- 
rection, as  I  believe  to  my  soul's  consolation ;  but  all  will  then 
be  changed — form  and  feeling  :  the  mortal  will  have  put  on 
immortality — it  will  rise,  not  for  earth,  but  heaven." 

This  speech  could  hardly  have  been  invented  by  Charlotte  ; 
it  reads  too  closely  to  a  real  conversation  ;  and  it  is  to  this 
romance  that  Wuthering  Heights  owes  much.  In  the  chapter 
on  Malevola,  Lucy  Snowe  hears  of  Paul  Emanuel's  goodness 
and  charity  to  his  lost  love's  relatives,  and  Pere  Silas  says  of 
his  former  pupil,  Paul  Emanuel,  "  He  was  and  is  the  lover, 
true,  constant  and  eternal,  of  that  saint  in  heaven — Marie 
Justine" — the  first  Madame  Heger's  name  was  Marie  Josephine, 
and  towards  the  end  of  the  chapter,  Madame  Beck  tells  Lucy 
Snowe  that  Paul  Emanuel  "  harbours  a  romantic  idea  about 
some  pale-faced  Marie  Justine — personnage  assez  niaise  a  ce 
que  je  pense  "  (such  was  Madame's  irreverent  remark)  "  who 
has  been  an  angel  in  heaven,  or  elsewhere,  this  score  of  years, 
and  to  whom  he  means  to  go,  free  from  all  earthly  ties,  pure 
comme  un  lis,  a  ce  qu'il  dit." 

Again,  "  They,  Pere  Silas  and  Modeste  Maria  Beck,  opened 
up  the  adytum  of  his  (Paul  Emanuel's)  heart — showed  me  one 


270      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

grand  love,  the  child  of  this  southern  nature's  youth,  born 
so  strong  and  perfect,  that  it  had  laughed  at  Death  himself, 
despised  his  mean  rape  of  matter,  clung  to  immortal  spirit, 
and,  in  victory  and  faith,  had  watched  beside  a  tomb  twenty 
years." 

In  the  third  chapter  of  Wuthering  Heights,  Cathy  wails, 
"  Let  me  in — let  me  in  ! 

" It's  twenty  years,  mourned  the  voice  :  twenty  years. 

I've  been  a  waif  for  twenty  years." 

In  Villette,  Lucy  Snowe  says  :  "  How  often  has  this  man, 
this  M.  Emanuel,  seemed  to  me  to  lack  magnanimity  in  trifles, 
yet  how  great  he  is  in  great  things  ! 

"  I  own  I  did  not  reckon  amongst  the  proofs  of  his  greatness 
either  the  act  of  confession,  or  the  saint- worship." 

"  How  long  is  it  since  that  lady  died  ?  "  I  inquired,  looking 
at  Justine  Marie. 

"  Twenty  years.  She  was  somewhat  older  than  M.  Emanuel ; 
he  was  then  very  young,  for  he  is  not  much  beyond  forty." 

"  Does  he  yet  weep  her  ?  " 

"His  heart  will  weep  her  always  :  the  essence  of  Emanuel' s 
nature  is — constancy." 

This  story  of  the  early  love  of  Paul  Emanuel  had  some 
connection  with  facts  in  M.  Heger's  life  and  it  was  the  know- 
ledge of  his  constancy  to  a  lost  love,  that  inspired  both 
Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte  to  write  so  passionately  of  him. 

It  was  this  early  romance  of  Paul  Emanuel,  that  was  the 
germ  of  the  passionate  love  story  in  Wuthering  Heights,  Jane 
Eyre,  and  Villette ;  but  in  the  writing  of  the  story  neither 
Emily  nor  Charlotte  had  been  able  to  keep  herself  from 
representing  the  heroine,  or  from  expressing  her  fierce 
passionate  nature. 

It  is  unfortunate  that  only  part  of  the  correspondence 
between  M.  Heger  and  Charlotte  Bronte  has  been  kept,  for 
it  is  quite  certain  there  were  other  letters  preceding  the  one 
dated  24th  July,  1844,  in  which  Charlotte  begins,  "  I  am  well 
aware  it  is  not  my  turn  to  write  to  you,  but  as  Mrs.  Wheel- 
wright is  going  to  Brussels it  appears  to  me  I  ought 

not  to  neglect  so  favourable  an  opportunity  of  writing  to  you." 


1  ,'  i  '•;  - 

'.,•  ;•'.  ,,    i 


HAND-BAG   WORKED    BY   CHARLOTTE    BRONTE 

Presented  to  Mrs.  Wheelwright  1842 


CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  AND  M.  HEGER   271 

Evidently  letters  had  passed  to  and  fro  between  M.  Heger  and 
Charlotte,  during  the  six  months  that  she  had  been  in  England, 
for  she  mentions  having  written  "  a  letter  that  was  less  than 
reasonable,  because  sorrow  was  at  my  heart  "  ;  and  again  she 
writes,  "  Meanwhile  I  may  well  send  you  a  little  letter  from 
time  to  time — you  have  authorised  me  to  do  so." 

That  Charlotte  was  perfectly  open  in  her  correspondence 
with  M.  Heger  is  easily  proved,  for  she  does  not  hesitate  to 
let  the  Wheelwrights  know  that  she  is  corresponding  with  him, 
and  her  reason  for  sending  the  letter  by  Mrs.  Wheelwright 
was  probably  to  save  the  postage  of  one  and  sixpence,  and  to 
ensure  its  safe  delivery,  for  she  seems  to  have  been  suspicious 
that  the  letters  were  not  received  by  M.  Heger. 

Dr.  Heger  told  me  that  Charlotte  Bronte's  letters  to  his 
father  had  been  too  frequent,  and  they  betrayed  a  growing 
attachment  which  his  parents  thought  it  kind  and  wise  to 
check.  She  was  told  that  her  letters  gave  evidence  of  too  much 
excitement  and  exaltation,  and  she  was  advised  to  tone  down 
her  letters  and  write  merely  of  her  health  and  occupation, 
only  giving  particulars  of  her  own  health  and  that  of  her  home 
circle. 

It  is  a  mistake  to  say  that  this  rebuff  caused  Charlotte 
Bronte  to  give  up  writing  to  M.  Heger ;  that  is  not  so  ;  she 
mentions  more  than  once  the  six  months'  interval,  and  it  is 
certain  she  tried  to  keep  to  the  instructions  imposed  upon 
her  by  M.  and  Madame  Heger.  Her  last  letter  to  M.  Heger, 
dated  18th  November,  which  Dr.  Heger  (the  son  of  M.  Heger) 
thinks  belongs  to  1844,  certainly  belonged  to  1845,  for  in  that 
letter  she  says,  "  I  have  never  heard  French  spoken  but  once 
since  I  left  Brussels — and  then  it  sounded  like  music  in  my  ears 
—every  word  was  most  precious  to  me  because  it  reminded 
me  of  you."  This  is  a  reference  to  Charlotte  Bronte's  journey 
from  Hathersage  to  Ha  worth  in  July,  1845,  when  she  tells  of 
accosting  a  stranger  in  the  railway  carriage,  and  asking  him 
in  French  if  he  were  not  a  Frenchman,  and  on  hearing  him 
speak,  she  further  asked  if  he  had  not  lived  in  Germany.  On 
his  replying  in  the  affirmative,  she  said  she  knew  it  by  his 
way  of  pronouncing  the  words.  M.  Heger  was  of  German 


272      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

descent,  and  that  may  account  for  Charlotte  saying,  "  Every 
word  was  most  precious  to  me  because  it  reminded  me  of  you, 
I  love  French  for  your  sake  with  all  my  heart  and  soul." 

In  the  first  letter  published  by  The  Times  there  is  a  reference 
to  a  situation  offered  to  Charlotte  Bronte  in  a  large  school  in 
Manchester  at  a  salary  of  one  hundred  pounds.  This  is  the 
first  that  has  been  heard  of  it,  and  it  is  very  remarkable  that 
Ellen  Nussey  is  not  told  of  it,  seeing  that  she  was  asked  to 
help  to  get  pupils  for  Charlotte.  Evidently  old  Mr.  Bronte 
objected  to  Charlotte  leaving  home  again,  for  Anne  mentions 
Charlotte's  wish  to  go  to  Paris,  and  she  queries  it.  In  The 
Professor  there  is  a  reference  to  William  Crimsworth  obtaining 
a  situation  at  3,000  francs  a  year,  after  leaving  M.  Pelet, 
which  may  have  some  reference  to  the  Manchester  offer,  but 
Mrs.  Gaskell  did  not  seem  to  know  of  it,  or  she  would  have 
surely  mentioned  it. 

The  letters  betray  Charlotte's  anxiety  to  know  if  M.  Heger 
has  received  her  letters,  and  she  sends  the  second  letter 
(published  in  The  Times)  by  Mr.  Joe  Taylor  and  his 
sister  Mary ;  she  evidently  charged  them  to  deliver  it  safely 
to  M.  Heger,  and  to  ask  for  an  answer  to  bring  back  to 
England. 

This  second  letter  is  short,  and  eager,  and  poor  Charlotte 
waits  feverishly  for  the  answer. 

"  I  am  not  going  to  write  a  long  letter  ;  in  the  first  place,  I 
have  not  the  time — it  must  leave  at  once  ;  and  then,  I  am  afraid 
of  worrying  you.  I  would  only  ask  of  you  if  you  have  heard 
from  me  at  the  beginning  of  May  and  again  in  the  month  of 
August  ?  For  six  months  I  have  been  awaiting  a  letter  from 
Monsieur — six  months  waiting  is  very  long,  you  know  !  How- 
ever, I  do  not  complain,  and  I  shall  be  richly  rewarded  for  a 
little  sorrow  if  you  will  now  write  a  letter  and  give  it  to  this 
gentleman — or  to  his  sister — who  will  hand  it  to  me  without 
fail.  .  .  . 

"  Farewell,  Monsieur  ;  I  am  depending  on  soon  having  your 
news.    The  idea  delights  me,  for  the  remembrance  of  your  ! 
kindnesses  will  never  fade  from  my  memory,  and  as  long  as  j 


HERO  WORSHIP  273 

that  remembrance  endures  the  respect  with  which  it  has 
inspired  me  will  endure  likewise." 

Mr.  Taylor  returns  and  brings  no  news.  "  Patience,"  says 
Charlotte  in  her  desperation,  and  she  awaits  Mary  Taylor's 
return.  "  I  have  nothing  for  you,"  she  says,  "  neither  letter 
nor  message." 

It  is  impossible  not  to  sympathize  with  this  eager,  passionate 
little  woman,  in  her  hero  worship,  but  no  one  can  blame 
Madame  Heger  for  checking  the  correspondence  ;  it  could 
only  lead  to  disappointment  in  the  end.  Certain  it  is  that 
Charlotte  called  it  by  the  name  of  friendship,  but  the  name 
was  not  strong  enough.  For  an  independent  woman  like 
Charlotte  Bronte  to  write  at  least  three  letters  to  M.  Heger, 
then  to  send  a  letter  by  hand,  and  still  to  get  no  answer,  and 
then  to  write  again  "  Forgive  me  then,  Monsieur,  if  I  adopt 
the  course  of  writing  to  you  again.  How  can  I  endure  life 
if  I  make  no  effort  to  ease  its  sufferings  ?  .  .  All  I  know  is, 
that  I  cannot,  that  I  will  not,  resign  myself  to  lose  wholly  the 
friendship  of  my  master.  I  would  rather  suffer  the  greatest 
physical  pain  than  always  have  my  heart  lacerated  by  smarting 
regrets.  If  my  master  withdraws  his  friendship  from  me 
entirely,  I  shall  be  altogether  without  hope  :  if  he  gives  me 
a  little — just  a  little — I  shall  be  satisfied — happy  ;  I  shall 
have  reason  for  living  on,  for  working.  .  .  Nor  do  I,  either, 
need  much  affection  from  those  I  love.  I  should  not  know 
what  to  do  with  a  friendship  entire  and  complete — I  am  not 
used  to  it.  "  And  when  she  speaks  of  the  "  little  interest " 
the  professor  had  in  her  of  yore,  she  says  :  "I  hold  on  to  it  as 
I  would  hold  on  to  life,"  and  her  piteous  appeal  is  that  of  the 
desperate  lover  begging  for  a  word  of  hope,  rather  than  that 
of  an  unmarried  woman  of  nearly  thirty  to  a  man  of  thirty-five, 
who  had  a  family  of  five  children. 

The  fourth  and  last  letter  printed  by  The  Times  is  dated 
15th  November,  and  for  the  reason  just  stated,  it  must  have 
been  written  in  1845. 

Then,  again,  she  mentions  having  suffered  great  anxiety 
for  a  year  or  two,  which  plainly  covered  the  period  since  she 

l8 — (2200) 


274      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

left  Brussels  on  29th  December,  1843.  This  fourth  letter 
points  to  the  fact  that  Charlotte  had  received  a  letter  after  her 
piteous  appeal,  on  finding  that  Joe  and  Mary  Taylor  had 
nothing  for  her.  The  third  letter  is  dated  8th  January,  1845, 
and  yet  Charlotte  says  on  18th  November  that  her  last  letter 
was  dated  18th  May,  and  it  implies  that  a  letter  had  been 
sent  from  M.  Heger  between  January  and  May,  for  she  says  : 
;<  Your  last  letter  was  stay  and  prop  to  me — nourishment  to 
me  for  half  a  year.  Now  I  need  another,  and  you  will  give  it 
me.".  ...  "To  forbid  me  to  write  to  you,  to  refuse  to 
answer  me  would  be  to  tear  from  me  my  only  joy  on  earth,  to 
deprive  me  of  my  last  privilege — a  privilege  I  shall  never 
consent  willingly  to  surrender.  Believe  me,  mon  maUre,  in 
writing  to  me  it  is  a  good  deed  that  you  will  do.  So  long  as  I 
believe  you  are  pleased  with  me,  so  long  as  I  have  hope  of 
receiving  news  from  you,  I  can  be  at  rest  and  not  too  sad.  But 
when  a  prolonged  and  gloomy  silence  seems  to  threaten  me 
with  the  estrangement  of  my  master — when  day  by  day  I 
await  a  letter,  and  when  day  by  day  disappointment  comes  to 
fling  me  back  into  overwhelming  sorrow,  and  the  sweet  delight 
of  seeing  your  handwriting  and  reading  your  counsel  escapes 
me  as  a  vision  that  is  vain,  then  fever  claims  me — I  lose  appetite 
and  sleep — I  pine  away."  In  conclusion,  she  asks,  "  May  I 
write  to  you  again  next  May  ?  "  proving  that  she  was  trying 
to  keep  her  promise  of  only  writing  once  in  six  months. 

These  four  letters  only  give  a  glimpse  of  the  eager,  passionate 
correspondence  sent  by  Charlotte  Bronte  to  her  master. 

On  the  authority  of  the  Heger  family,  the  last  letter  was 
addressed  by  Charlotte  Bronte  to  the  Athe*ne*e  Royal  of 
Brussels,  but  it  was  not  at  the  request  of  M.  Heger,  but  because 
Charlotte  herself  was  eager  to  obtain  an  answer  from  him, 
and  she  evidently  was  suspecting  Madame  Heger  as  the  cause 
of  the  delay  in  getting  answers,  for  it  is  noticeable  that  in  this 
last  letter  Madame  Heger  is  not  mentioned  at  all,  although 
the  governesses  and  the  children  are  referred  to  by  name. 
This  is  inexcusable,  and  as  far  as  is  known  no  further  letters 
were  sent. 

M.  Heger  did  not  write  his  own  letters,  but  dictated  them^ 


M.   PAUL  EMANUEL  275 

and  his  wife  wrote  them  ;  whilst  later  still,  since  his  daughter 
Louise  was  his  amanuensis,  M.  Heger  merely  signed  the  letters 
after  altering  certain  phrases,  and  then  a  fair  copy  was  made  ; 
but  Charlotte  Bronte  in  her  last  letter  writes  of  the  sweet 
delight  of  seeing  his  (M.  Heger's)  handwriting,  and  as  he  cor- 
rected her  devoirs  in  his  own  characteristic  caligraphy  it  is 
certain  she  would  be  able  to  recognise  it  as  distinct  from 
Madame  Heger's,  which  was  larger  and  firmer. 

In  Villette  M.  Paul  Emanuel  says,  "  I  could  not  write  that 
down.  ...  I  hate  mechanical  labour  ;  I  hate  to  stoop  and 
sit  still.  I  could  dictate  it,  though,  with  pleasure  to  an 
amanuensis  who  suited  me." 

The  two  years  in  Brussels,  and  the  two  succeeding  years  were 
the  ones  which  counted  most  in  the  writing  of  Charlotte's 
novels,  for  in  those  four  years  she  fought  her  hardest  battle, 
as  her  novels  testify. 

There  are  some  who  blame  M.  Heger  for  keeping  the  letters 
of  Charlotte  Bronte,  thinking  they  ought  to  have  been  destroyed, 
so  that  they  could  never  have  been  published,  but  it  is  well 
to  know  M.  Heger  himself  strongly  objected  to  the  letters 
ever  being  published.  He  kept  them  for  the  same  reason 
that  he  kept  Emily's  and  Charlotte's  devoirs,  "  because  he 
had  known  the  little  geniuses,"  but  he  never  had  any  intention 
of  publishing  Charlotte's  letters,  as  a  letter  to  Ellen  Nussey 
proves. 

Ellen  Nussey  was  not  satisfied  with  Mrs.  Gaskell's  Life  of 
Charlotte  Bronte  ;  she  thought  it  too  sad,  and  she  evidently 
wished  to  adopt  the  role  of  biographer  herself,  and,  if  she  could 
have  secured  the  help  of  M.  Heger,  a  new  phase  of  Charlotte's 
life  would  be  revealed,  for  Ellen  Nussey  did  not  understand  the 
Brussels  period  ;  had  she  done  so  she  would  never  have  asked 
M.  Heger  to  publish  Charlotte's  letters. 

A  letter  from  M.  Heger,  written  just  fifty  years  ago, 
redounds  to  his  credit  and  his  loyalty  to  Charlotte  Bronte, 
and  it  explains  why  Dr.  Heger  and  his  sisters  have  delayed 
so  long  in  allowing  the  letters  to  be  published.  Had  it  not  been 
that  a  dishonourable  attachment  had  been  hinted  at  by 
pertain  writers,  they  would  never  have  allowed  the  letters  to  be 


276      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

made  public,  knowing  all  these  fifty  years  what  their  father's 
wishes  were.  Here  is  the  letter  from  M.  Heger  to  Ellen  Nussey, 
published  for  the  first  time  by  kind  permission  of  Dr.  Heger 
and  his  sisters. 

"BRUXELLES,  16  Octobve,  1863. 

"  Mademoiselle, 

"  Deux  mots  expliqueront  et  me  feront  pardonner  le  retard 
que  j'ai  mis  a  vous  repondre  :  votre  lettre  ne  rn'a  pas  trouve 
a  Spa ;  je  n'en  ai  pris  connaissance  qu'a  mon  retour  des 
vacances. 

"  Vous  daignez  me  consulter  sur  trois  points  :  1=  la  publica- 
tion de  pres  de  500  lettres  de  Charlotte  Bronte,  votre  amie 
2£  la  traduction  en  frangais  de  cette  correspondance  3i  ma 
participation  eventuelle  a  cette  traduction. 

"  M'expliquer  sincerement  sur  ces  trois  points  est  a  mes 
yeux  un  devoir.  Je  crois  comme  vous,  Mademoiselle,  que 
votre  amie  sera  plus  fidelement  peinte  par  elle-meme  que  par 
autrui ;  je  crois  que  ses  lettres,  ou  1'on  voit  le  mouvement 
intime  de  sa  pensee,  ou  Ton  sent  les  battements  de  ce  pauvre 
cceur  malade,  peuvent  offrir  encore  un  vif  interet,  meme 
apres  la  biographic  developpee  de  Madame  Gaskell.  Je  suis 
convaincu  de  cela, — et  cependant  il  s'eleve  du  fond  de  ma 
conscience  certaines  objections  que  je  soumets  humblement  a 
la  v6tre. 

"  La  question  que  je  vais  traiter  est  delicate  ;  j'hesite  a 
Tabor der,  mais  cette  hesitation,  que  j'avoue,  je  la  regarde 
comme  une  faiblesse  et  je  passe  outre ;  quelquechose  me  dit, 
Mademoiselle,  que  ma  sinc6rite  ne  saurait  vous  blesser  :  elle 
n'est,  en  realite",  qu'un  hommage  rendu  a  votre  loyaute*  et  a 
votre  cceur. 

"  Je  me  suis  done  pose  cette  question  :  pourrais-je,  sans 
Passentiment  de  mon  ami,  publier  ses  lettres  intimes,  c'est  a 
dire  les  confidences  qu'il  m'a  faites  ?  Ne  m'a-t-il  pas  laisse 
voir,  de  lui-meme,  plus  qu'il  ne  voulait  montrer  a  autrui  ? 
ce  qu'on  m'aurait  dit  a  voix  basse  pourrais-je  le  redire  a  haute 
voix  apres  le  depart  de  1'imprudent  ami  qui  s'est  confi6  a  ma 
discretion  ?  ces  impressions  fugitives,  ces  appreciations 
irr6fl6chies,  jet^es,  a  cceur  ouvert  dans  une  causerie  intime, 


M.    HEGER'S  LETTER  TO  ELLEN  NUSSEY    277 

puis-je  les  livrer  en  pature  a  la  curiosite"  maligne  des 
lecteurs  ? 

"  Je  n'ai  pas,  Mademoiselle,  la  prevention  de  re"soudre  pour 
vous  cette  question  :  je  vous  crois  trop  de  delicatesse  pour 
supposer  qu'en  pareille  mati&re  votre  raison  et  votre  cceur 
aient  besoin  d'aide — Mais  appelons-en  a  notre  experience 
personelle  :  il  doit  vous  etre  arrive"  comme  a  moi,  comme  a 
tout  le  monde,  de  retrouver  apres  plusieurs  anne"es,  le  brouillon 
de  quelqu'une  des  lettres  que  nous  avons  e"crites,  et  certes 
je  crois  pouvoir  affirmer  que  ni  vous  ni  moi  nous  ne  les  eussions 
livre"es  a  la  publicite  sans  modification  aucune  :  tant  I'exp6r- 
ience,  la  maturite"  que  le  temps  donne  a  1'esprit,  avaient,  en 
bien  des  points,  modifie'  nos  sentiments  et  nos  idees. 

"  Votre  pieuse  affection  veut,  par  la  publication  de  la 
correspondance  de  Charlotte,  aj  outer  a  la  gloire,  a  la  consid6ra- 
tion  de  votre  amie  ;  je  le  comprends ;  mais  permettez-moi  de 
vous  mettre  en  garde  centre  vous  m6me :  en  triant  sa 
correspondance,  supposez  toujours  votre  amie  presente  £ 
c6t6  de  vous,  et  consultez-la. 

Voila,  Mademoiselle,  sans  reticence,  ce  que  je  pense  de  la 
publication  des  lettres  originales  en  anglais. 

"  Quant  a  la  traduction  en  fran9ais,  quel  que  soit  le  merite 
du  traducteur,  il  me  parait  que  de  toutes  les  ceuvres  litte"raires 
les  lettres  sont  celles  qui  perdent  le  plus  a  etre  traduites  :  dans 
la  correspondance  intime  1'a  propos,  la  liberte"  de  1'allure,  la 
grace  et  jusqu'aux  charmantes  negligences  d'une  forme  toute 
spontane"e,  donnent  du  prix,  de  l'agre"ment,  aux  moindres 
choses  ;  dans  la  traduction  tout  cela  disparait. 

"  Je  ne  sache  pas  qu'on  ait  songe"  a  traduire  les  lettres  de 
Madame  de  S6vigne"— pas  plus  qu'on  n'a  tente"  de  peindre 
le  vol  ou  de  noter  le  chant  de  Toiseau. 

"  Certaines  lettres  resistent  a  la  traduction,  je  le  sais,  parce 
qu'elles  traitent  de  politique,  de  voyages,  de  critique  litte"raire, 
etc.  Elles  ont  un  fonds  solide  d'une  valeur  r^elle,  en  quelque 
sorte  ind^pendante  de  la  forme.  Petit-etre  les  lettres  de  votre 
amie  sont-elles  dans  ce  cas ;  je  1'ignore,  vous  seule  pouvez  en 
juger. 

"  Aprds  avoir  exprim^  mon  opinion   sur  la   traduction  et 


278      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS   OF  THE  BRONTES 

confesse  implicitement  ainsi  mon  impuissance  a  faire  ce  que 
vous  paraissez  d6sirer  de  moi,  je  crois  inutile  d'aj  outer  qu'il  me 
serait  impossible  dans  tous  les  cas,  faute  de  loisir,  de  cooper er 
a  la  publication  dont  vous  avez  pieusement  rassemble"  les 
mate'riaux.  Veuillez  peser  avec  une  indulgente  bienveillance 
les  motifs  de  mon  abstention  et  agreer,  Mademoiselle,  1'hom- 
mage  de  mes  meilleurs  sentiments. 

"  (Sign<§)  C.  HEGER." 

It  is  interesting  to  note  that  when  the  rough  draft  of  this 
letter,  which  had  been  dictated  by  M.  Heger  to  his  daughter 
Louise,  was  examined,  it  was  seen  that  the  word  malade  in  the 
phrase  "  de  ce  pauvre  cceur  malade  "  had  been  altered  twice 
into  bless e,  and  then  finally  M.  Heger  had  determined 
to  leave  it  as  it  now  stands.  Evidently  he  considered  the 
word  blesse  was  more  appropriate  as  applied  to  his  former  pupil's 
poor  wounded  heart  than  malade,  which  word,  however,  was 
perhaps  more  suited  to  a  letter  to  be  sent  to  Charlotte  Bronte's 
old  friend  Ellen  Nussey. 

The  letter  explains  itself ;  Ellen  Nussey  did  not  receive 
one  penny  from  Mrs.  Gaskell  for  the  loan  of  her  500  Bronte 
letters,  and  she  wished  to  get  M.  Heger  to  help  her  to  write 
a  new  biography  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  but  his  letter  proves  that 
he  was  too  honourable  to  publish  this  private  correspondence. 

If  M.  Heger's  correspondence  could  have  been  kept  and 
published,  it  would  have  shown  that  his  letters  contained 
nothing  that  was  dishonourable,  or  he  would  not  have  advised 
Mrs.  Gaskell  to  ask  to  see  them. 

Readers  of  Mrs.  Gaskell's  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte  will 
remember  that  she  quotes  one  long  letter  from  Charlotte 
Bronte  to  M.  Heger  and  also  a  shorter  passage.  When  the 
four  letters  were  published  in  The  Times  it  was  seen  that  the 
impression  of  the  correspondence  between  Charlotte  Bronte* 
and  M.  Heger  intended  by  Mrs.  Gaskell  was  quite  erroneous. 
As  Mr.  Spielmann,  who  conducted  the  correspondence  between 
the  Hegers  and  the  Principal  Librarian  of  the  British  Museum, 
pointed  out.  "  Passages  of  quite  minor  interest  have  been 
printed  in  that  work  ;  but  readers  will  be  amazed  to  find 


M.   HEGER'S  LOYALTY  279 

that  not  only  have  they  been  corrected  and  furbished  up  as  to 
spelling  and  punctuation,  and  unimportant  words  omitted, 
but  that  they  have — inevitably  no  doubt,  at  that  time,  for  the 
biographer's  peculiar  purpose — been  garbled  in  a  manner 
rare  in  a  frankly  and  candidly-conceived  narrative." 

What  appears  to  be  one  letter  in  Mrs.  Gaskell's  Life  of 
Charlotte  Bronte  is  seen  to  consist  of  more  or  less  unimportant 
extracts  carefully  selected  from  the  first  two  letters  recently 
published,  and  the  second  quotation  is  taken  from  an  earlier 
portion  of  the  first  of  the  four  letters.  Not  only  are  there 
important  omissions,  but  the  second  letter  especially  consists 
of  a  mere  patchwork,  which  appears  to  preclude  any  explana- 
tion on  the  ground  of  carelessness.  Mrs^Gaskell  must  have 
seen  these  letters,  for  in  addition  to  the  French  quotations 
there  are  statements  which  prove  her  knowledge  of  them. 
Moreover,  the  manuscripts  now  in  the  British  Museum  must 
have  been  seen  by  her,  when  in  the  keeping  of  the  Hegers, 
for  Mr.  Nicholls  does  not  appear  to  have  had  them,  but  whoever 
compiled  the  letters  in  Mrs.  Gaskell's  biography  of  Charlotte 
Bronte  must  have  been  actuated  by  a  desire  to  conceal  the  real 
drift  of  the  correspondence.  The  letters  which  were  dated 
24th  July,  1844,  and  24th  October,  1844,  appear  in  Mrs. 
Gaskell's  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte  as  having  been  sent  to  M. 
Heger  subsequent  to  March,  1845,  and  after  Charlotte  Bronte's 
visit  to  Hathersage,  which  would  be  impossible. 

Her  passionate  longing  to  hear  from  M.  Heger,  and  especially 
to  see  him,  cannot  be  dismissed — especially  when  the  relative 
ages  are  considered — as  typical  of  a  pupil's  relations  with  her 
former  teacher.  The  feeling  which  she  betrays  is  too  intense 
to  be  explained  in  that  way,  and  only  M.  Heger 's  recognition 
of  his  duty  to  his  wife  and  family,  and  the  necessity  of  checking 
Charlotte  Bronte''s  ardour,  brought  the  correspondence  to  a 
close. 


CHAPTER  XXI 

THE   ATTEMPT  TO  EARN   A  LIVELIHOOD 

1844-1845 

FAILURE  of  the  East  Riding  scheme  for  a  school — The  Bronte  sisters 
determine  to  open  a  school  at  the  Vicarage — The  prospectus 
— Causes  of  the  failure  of  the  project — They  turn  to  litera- 
ture as  a  means  of  livelihood — The  Vicarage  family — Charlotte 
Bronte's  invitation  to  Hathersage — Emily  and  Anne  visit  York — 
The  Gondal  Chronicles — Hathersage  and  Jane  Eyre — Marriage  of 
the  Rev.  Henry  Nussey — Hathersage  Village — Charlotte  Bronte's 
return  to  Haworth. 

IN  one  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  recently  published  letters  in  The 
Times,  29th  July,  1913,  she  mentions  that,  in  the  summer  of 
1844,  she  had  been  offered  a  situation  as  first  governess  in  a 
large  school  in  Manchester,  with  a  salary  of  £100  per  annum, 
but  that  she  could  not  accept  it,  as  it  would  have  necessitated 
leaving  her  father.  This  is  the  first  time  that  anything  has 
been  known  of  such  an  offer,  and  curiosity  is  aroused  as  to  the 
school  in  Manchester  in  which  Charlotte  had  the  chance  of 
becoming  a  governess.  The  Manchester  High  School  for  Girls 
was  not  started  until  1874  ;  evidently  the  school  referred  to 
must  have  been  a  boarding  school  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
Manchester,  but  it  is  somewhat  strange  that,  in  later  years, 
when  Charlotte  visited  the  Gaskells  at  Manchester,  she  does 
not  seem  to  have  mentioned  the  offer,  nor  does  the  father 
seem  to  have  remembered  it,  when  giving  Mrs.  Gaskell 
particulars  of  his  daughter's  career. 

Emily  was  at  home  at  this  time,  and  there  were  two  servants, 
so  that  it  is  curious  that  the  father  would  not  allow  Charlotte 
to  go  to  Manchester,  seeing  there  was  the  tempting  offer 
of  £100  per  annum,  for  some  months  later,  according  to  Anne 
Bronte's  diary,  Charlotte  was  trying  to  get  to  Paris  as  a 
governess.  In  the  light  of  the  recently  published  letters, 
Charlotte's  health  and  despondency  seem  to  be  the  real  reason 
why  her  father  would  not  let  her  go  ;  probably  he  did  not  wish 
his  daughter  to  go  away  alone  again,  after  the  miserable  state 
in  which  she  returned  from  Brussels. 

280 


THE  SCHOOL  CIRCULAR  281 

Miss  Bran  well's  death  in  1842  made  it  impossible  for  the 
three  sisters  to  leave  their  father  and  start  a  school  in  the 
East  Riding  of  Yorkshire,  as  they  had  hoped  to  do,  and  the 
only  way  in  which  they  could  collectively  use  their  hard-earned 
knowledge  was  by  starting  a  school  at  Ha  worth.  After  much 
consideration  and  planning,  a  school  circular  was  drawn  up 
and  widely  circulated  in  1844 — 

33ronte's 

FOR 


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Quarter's  Notice,  or  a  Quarter's  Board,  is  required  previous  to  the 
Removal  of  a  Pupil. 


282      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

These  single-sheet  prospectuses  were  sent  to  friends  and 
anyone  likely  to  have  any  influence  with  parents  of  girls.  Ellen 
Nussey  rendered  what  help  she  could,  and  Charlotte  Bronte 
not  only  distributed  the  prospectuses,  but  also  visited  people 
and  canvassed  for  pupils.  Not  a  single  one  was  obtained  by 
these  united  efforts.  This  failure  could  not  be  attributed  to 
any  feeling  against  the  Bronte  sisters  ;  they  were  respected 
far  and  wide  as  the  parson's  daughters,  but  as  teachers  their 
reputation  was  not  good.  If  Charlotte  Bronte  had  much  to 
complain  of  in  Mrs.  Sidgwick  of  Stonegappe,  it  is  very  certain 
that  Mrs.  Sidgwick  had  something  to  say  about  Charlotte 
Bronte,  and  Lothersdale  was  only  a  few  miles  from  Haworth. 
At  Roe  Head  and  Dewsbury  Moor,  Charlotte  was  known  as  a 
strict  disciplinarian,  and  her  shyness  with  strangers  did  not 
help  her  with  the  parents.  In  addition,  the  Brontes  had  always 
"  kept  themselves  very  close,"  as  the  villagers  in  Haworth 
expressed  it,  and  to  this  day  they  are  remembered  at  Haworth 
as  a  mysterious  family.  The  father  was  peculiar  in  his  habits, 
an  instance  of  which  Tabitha  Brown  related  to  me.  She  had 
taken  the  tea  things  from  Mr.  Bronte's  study,  and  knowing 
that  he  put  salt  as  well  as  sugar  in  his  tea  she  tasted  what 
remained  in  his  tea  cup,  and  making  a  very  long  face  exclaimed 
that  it  was  more  like  physic.  When  her  sister,  Martha  Brown, 
mentioned  the  matter  to  Mr.  Bronte",  he  said  it  was  physic. 
He  always  believed  in  plenty  of  salt,  as  it  kept  away  worms, 
which  were  apt  to  breed  in  the  body.  Then  there  was  his 
peculiar  habit  of  continuing  to  wear  a  high  "  stock  "  round 
his  neck  made  up  of  yards  and  yards  of  white  silk,  which 
gave  him  an  uncanny  appearance.  The  peculiarities  of 
the  Bronte  household  were  the  talk  of  the  whole  country 
side. 

Then  there  was  the  eccentric  Bran  well ;  although  the  villagers 
admired  him  in  a  way,  they  considered  him  to  be  "  a  bit  queer." 
In  their  younger  days  their  little  plays,  acted  in  the  absence 
of  their  father,  in  which  the  servants  were  sometimes  asked 
to  join,  were  considered  to  be  wild  and  meaningless.  If  the 
Brontes  failed  to  appreciate  the  simple  rustic  folk  of  the  place, 
they  in  return  were  looked  upon  as  a  queer  Irish  family, 


FAILURE   OF  THE  SCHOOL  PROJECT         283 

and  it  was  the  air  of  mystery  which  surrounded  the  Bronte 
home  that  scared  the  people  from  sending  their  daughters  as 
pupils.  The  reams  of  note-paper,  bought  from  John  Greenwood, 
the  local  stationer,  and  covered  with  the  Bronte  children's 
small  hand-printing,  meant  very  little  to  the  simple-minded 
people  in  the  district,  and  it  was  only  when  their  books 
were  known  to  be  actually  published  that  some  of  their 
neighbours  gave  them  credit  for  being  clever  and  industrious. 
To  this  day  the  Bronte  home  is  spoken  of  in  the  Haworth  dis- 
trict as  a  mystery,  and  consequently  strange  tales  are  told 
of  the  inmates. 

If  the  school  project  had  succeeded,  it  was  the  intention  of 
the  sisters  to  get  the  parsonage  enlarged  by  adding  a  school- 
room and  extra  bedrooms,  making  the  house  as  large  as  it  is 
at  the  present  time.  Charlotte,  in  her  letter  to  M.  Heger, 
gives  the  impression  that  the  house  was  large,  and  that  with  a 
few  alterations  it  would  be  possible  to  house  five  or  six  boarders. 
She  blamed  Haworth  for  the  failure  of  her  scheme,  but  it  was 
the  peculiar  circumstances  associated  with  the  home,  rather 
than  the  locality,  which  prevented  the  idea  of  a  school  ever 
becoming  an  established  fact. 

Haworth  has  been  described  by  people  who  have  visited 
the  village  as  a  most  desolate  place — "  surely  the  last  place 
that  God  made,"  as  one  writer  pictures  it,  whereas  it  is  a 
typical  North  Country  village — clean,  bracing  and  healthy. 
This  Yorkshire  moorland  village  looks  its  best  when  the 
purple  heather  is  in  bloom,  but  at  no  time  is  it  so  desolate  as 
it  has  been  described.  The  people  were  not  by  any  means  so 
illiterate  as  Mrs.  Gaskell  described  them,  when  she  stated 
that  there  was  nobody  for  the  Brontes  to  associate  with. 
Charlotte  Bronte  may  have  conveyed  that  impression  to  Mrs. 
Gaskell,  who  would  have  found,  had  she  lived  there  for  any 
length  of  time,  that  the  people  were  as  simple  and  lovable  as 
in  Cranford.  The  parsonage  servants  were  born  and  bred 
in  the  neighbourhood,  and  they  proved  to  be  faithful  and 
true,  if  somewhat  brusque  and  blunt.  It  was  the  failure  of 
their  school  plan  that  drove  the  Bronte  girls  to  attempt  to 
publish  their  poems,  for  they  always  had  the  fear  of  poverty 


284       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

before  them.  Their  father's  health  was  never  robust,  and 
in  the  event  of  his  death  the  prospect  was  by  no  means  alluring. 

Although  Ellen  Nussey  was  so  true  a  friend  to  Charlotte 
Bronte',  it  was  Mary  Taylor,  with  her  superior  education  and 
greater  intellectual  ability,  to  whom  she  related  her  doubts 
and  fears,  and  confided  her  literary  secrets.  Ellen  Nussey 
was  only  told  of  the  authorship  of  Jane  Eyre  when  Shirley 
was  actually  published,  and  the  information  could  no  longer 
be  withheld.  Charlotte's  letter  to  Ellen  Nussey  disowning 
any  novels  ascribed  to  her  was  written  to  throw  dust  in  the 
eyes  of  her  friend,  and  it  was  written  to  deceive.  Mrs.  Gaskell 
excuses  Charlotte  by  saying  she  had  promised  her  sisters  never 
to  divulge  the  secret. 

Mary  Taylor  relates  a  pitiful  story  of  Charlotte  Bronte's 
fears  of  poverty  when  at  Brussels — 

"  The  first  part  of  her  time  at  Brussels  was  not  uninteresting. 
She  spoke  of  new  people  and  characters,  and  foreign  ways 
of  the  pupils  and  teachers.  She  knew  the  hopes  and  prospect 
of  the  teachers,  and  mentioned  one  who  was  very  anxious  to 
marry,  '  she  was  getting  so  old.'  She  used  to  get  her  father 
or  brother  (I  forget  which)  to  be  the  bearer  of  letters  to  different 
single  men,  who  she  thought  might  be  persuaded  to  do  her  the 
favour,  saying  that  her  only  resource  was  to  become  a  sister  of 
charity  if  her  present  employment  failed,  and  that  she  hated 
the  idea.  Charlotte  naturally  looked  with  curiosity  to  people 
of  her  own  condition.  This  woman  almost  frightened  her. 
4  She  declares  there  is  nothing  she  can  turn  to,  and  laughs  at  the 
idea  of  delicacy — and  she  is  only  ten  years  older  than  I  am ! ' 
I  did  not  see  the  connection  till  she  said,  '  Well,  Polly,  I  should 
hate  being  a  sister  of  charity  ;  I  suppose  that  would  shock  some 
people,  but  I  should.'  I  thought  she  would  have  as  much 
feeling  as  a  nurse  as  most  people,  and  more  than  some.  She 
said  she  did  not  know  how  people  could  bear  the  constant 
pressure  of  misery,  and  never  to  change  except  to  a  new  form 
of  it.  It  would  be  impossible  to  keep  one's  natural  feelings. 
I  promised  her  a  better  destiny  than  to  go  begging  anyone  to 
marry  her,  or  to  lose  her  natural  feelings  as  a  sister  of  charity. 
She  said,  '  My  youth  is  leaving  me  ;  I  can  never  do  better 


MARY  TAYLOR'S  LETTER  285 

than  I  have  done,  and  I  have  done  nothing  yet.'  At  such 
times  she  seemed  to  think  that  most  human  beings  were 
destined  by  the  pressure  of  worldly  interests  to  lose  one  faculty 
and  feeling  after  another  'till  they  went  dead  altogether. 
I  hope  I  shall  be  put  in  my  grave  as  soon  as  I'm  dead  ;  I  don't 
want  to  walk  about  so.'  Here  we  always  differed.  I  thought 
the  degradation  of  nature  she  feared  was  a  consequence  of 
poverty,  and  that  she  should  give  her  attention  to  earning 
money.  Sometimes  she  admitted  this,  but  could  find  no 
means  of  earning  money.  At  others  she  seemed  afraid  of 
letting  her  thoughts  dwell  on  the  subject,  saying  it  brought 
on  the  worst  palsy  of  all.  Indeed,  in  her  position,  nothing 
less  than  entire  constant  absorption  in  petty  money  matters 
could  have  scraped  together  a  provision. 

"  Of  course,  artists  and  authors  stood  high  with  Charlotte, 
and  the  best  thing  after  their  works  would  have  been  their 
company.  She  used  very  inconsistently  to  rail  at  money  and 
money-getting,  and  then  wish  she  was  able  to  visit  all  the  large 
towns  in  Europe,  see  all  the  sights,  and  know  all  the  celebrities. 
This  was  her  notion  of  literary  fame — a  passport  to  the  society 
of  clever  people.  .  .  .  When  she  had  become  acquainted  with  the 
people  and  ways  at  Brussels  her  life  became  monotonous,  and 
she  fell  into  the  same  hopeless  state  as  at  Miss  Wooler's,  though 
in  a  less  degree.  I  wrote  to  her,  urging  her  to  go  home  or 
elsewhere  ;  she  had  got  what  she  wanted  (French),  and  there 
was  at  least  novelty  in  a  new  place,  if  no  improvement.  That 
if  she  sank  into  deeper  gloom  she  would  soon  not  have  energy 
to  go,  and  she  was  too  far  from  home  for  her  friends  to  hear 
of  her  condition  and  order  her  home  as  they  had  done  from 
Miss  Wooler's.  She  wrote  that  I  had  done  her  a  great  service, 
that  she  would  certainly  follow  my  advice,  and  was  much 
obliged  to  me.  I  have  often  wondered  at  this  letter.  Though 
she  patiently  tolerated  advice  she  could  always  put  it  aside, 
and  do  as  she  thought  fit.  More  than  once  afterwards  she 
mentioned  the  '  service '  I  had  done  her.  She  sent  me  £10 
to  New  Zealand,  on  hearing  some  exaggerated  accounts  of  my 
circumstances,  and  told  me  she  hoped  it  would  come  in  season- 
ably ;  it  was  a  debt  she  owed  me  '  for  the  service  I  had  done 


286       IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

her.'  I  should  think  £10  was  a  quarter  of  her  income.  The 
*  service  '  was  mentioned  as  an  apology,  but  kindness  was  the 
real  motive." 

Later  Charlotte  Bronte  writes  :  "  I  speculate  much  on  the 
existence  of  unmarried  and  never-to-be-married  woman  now- 
adays." The  Bronte  sisters  had  more  independence  than  to 
think  of  marriage  as  a  way  out  of  the  difficulty.  Anne  might, 
if  fate  had  been  kind,  have  married  a  curate,  as  was  the  case 
with  "  Agnes  Grey,"  but  Charlotte  and  Emily  were  quite 
reconciled  to  their  idea  that  they  would  never  marry.  Charlotte 
says  :  "I  have  made  up  my  mind  since  I  was  a  girl  of  twelve 
that  I  should  never  marry,"  but  fate  was  too  much  for  her, 
and  in  marriage  she  ventured  her  all,  and  died  for  it. 

After  the  disappointment  associated  with  the  failure  to 
establish  a  school,  the  three  sisters  determined  to  turn  to 
literature,  as  a  means  of  earning  money.  Emily  and  Anne 
had  been  writing  the  mysterious  Gondal  Chronicles  for  more 
than  three  years,  and  Charlotte  had  been  busy  with  other 
work  of  a  literary  character.  Anne  confessed  that  she  had 
been  busy  with  Agnes  Grey  or,  as  she  guardedly  calls  it,  Some 
Passages  in  the  Life  of  an  Individual.  There  is  no  distinct 
record  to  tell  us  what  Charlotte  was  writing  at  this  time,  but 
her  poems  on  Gilbert,  Apostacy,  Frances,  referring  to  her  life 
at  Brussels,  must  have  been  written  in  1844-1845.  Very 
probably  she  wrote  her  first  version  of  Jane  Eyre  under  some 
other  title,  when  alone  in  Brussels,  for  in  a  letter  to  George 
Henry  Lewes  she  tells  how  Jane  Eyre  was  objected  to  at  first 
on  the  same  ground  as  The  Professor  was  refused  as  being 
deficient  in  "  startling  incident  "  and  "  thrilling  excitement," 
and  that  could  not  be  so  with  the  Jane  Eyre  that  was  accepted 
in  1847. 

Mr.  Bronte  was  iU  and  very  despondent  about  his  increasing 
blindness,  and  yet  he  arranged  for  all  his  daughters  to  have 
a  short  holiday  during  the  Midsummer  of  1845.  Anne  gave 
up  teaching,  and  left  Thorpe  Green  of  her  own  accord  on 
17th  June,  and  at  the  same  time  Branwell  came  home  for  a 
week's  holiday  and  then  returned  to  Thorpe  Green  alone. 
He  stayed  at  the  Robinsons  for  a  month  after  Anne  left.  It 


THORPE  GREEN  287 

has  been  stated  that  he  and  Anne  left  together,  which  is  not 
correct.  No  serious  trouble  appears  to  have  occurred  whilst 
Anne  was  at  Thorpe  Green,  and  she  left  for  no  reason  whatever 
connected  with  Branwell's  conduct ;  she  had  been  teaching 
continuously  for  six  years,  and  had  saved  a  large  portion  of 
her  salary  ;  her  health  was  poor  and  it  was  decided  that  she 
should  stay  at  home.  The  fact  that  Bran  well  returned  to  the 
Robinsons  after  Anne  had  left  proves  that  nothing  serious 
could  be  urged  against  him  at  the  time.  It  was  rumoured 
in  the  district  that  the  new  governess,  who  took  Anne's  place 
at  Thorpe  Green,  was  the  cause  of  his  dismissal ;  possibly,  if 
Anne  had  not  left,  Branwell's  conduct  might  not  have  fur- 
nished grounds  for  complaint,  for  his  sister  had  a  good  influence 
over  him.  The  only  reference  Anne  makes  concerning  him  at 
this  time  is  that  he  has  been  ill,  and  has  had  much  tribulation. 
Although  he  naturally  occupies  much  space  in  Mrs.  GaskelTs 
Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,  so  far  as  his  residence  at  the  Robinsons 
goes,  two  and  a  half  years'  satisfactory  employment  has  to  be 
set  against  the  one  month  he  remained  after  Anne  left.  If 
he  could  retain  his  appointment  and  evidently  give  satisfaction 
for  so  long  a  period,  he  was  not  the  drunken  wretch  that  Mrs. 
Gaskell  and  others  have  tried  to  prove  he  was.  He  may  have 
received  more  attention  from  Mrs.  Robinson  than  was  due 
to  him  as  a  tutor  to  her  son,  but  Anne's  presence  would  probably 
have  saved  him  from  a  fall.  He  suffered  from  an  unfortunate 
want  of  balance,  and  a  strong  emotional  temperament,  which 
Charlotte  Bronte  confesses  was  like  her  own,  and  in  any  case 
he  was  more  sinned  against  than  sinning,  if  Charlotte  Bronte 
was  correct.  "  Of  their  mother  I  have  hardly  patience  to 
speak.  A  worse  woman,  I  believe,  hardly  exists  ;  the  more 
I  hear  of  her  the  more  deeply  she  revolts  me,"  wrote  Charlotte 
of  Mrs.  Robinson. 

Anne  had  been  at  Thorpe  Green  more  than  four  years,  and 
weary  years  they  were,  though  she  struggled  on.  In  her  first 
little  memorandum  she  tells  how  unhappy  she  would  have 
been  had  she  known  that  she  would  have  to  stay  there  for 
four  years.  The  Robinson  girls  were  genuinely  fond  of  her, 
and  used  to  visit  her  at  Haworth  after  she  had  left  their  home. 


288      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTfiS 

It  was  in  June,  1845,  that  Charlotte  received  an  invitation  to 
visit  Ellen  Nussey  at  Hathersage,  which  she  felt  compelled  to 
refuse.     However,  when  Anne  returned  home,  Charlotte  could 
be  spared,  and  she  joyfully  prepared  for  the  journey  into  Derby- 
shire.    Whilst  she  was  away,  Emily  and  Anne  had  a  little 
excursion  to  York,  remaining  there  only  one  night,  then  passing 
on  to  Keighley  for  a  second  night,  and  on  the  third  day  jour- 
neying to  Bradford  for  a  few  hours  and  then  walking  home 
from  Keighley  to  Haworth.    They  made  this  short  trip  a 
sort  of  rehearsal  of  their  play  about  the  Gondals,  and  Emily 
thought  it  worth  putting  on  record  in  her   memorandum, 
where  she  says  :    "  During  our  excursion  we  were  Ronald 
Macalgin,    Henry    Angora,     Juliet    Angusteena,      Rosabella 
Esmaldan,  Ella  and  Julian  Egremont,  Catharine  Navarre  and 
Cordelia  Fitzaphnold,  escaping  from  the  palaces  of  instruction 
to  join  the  Royalists,  who  are  hard  driven  at  present  by  the 
victorious  Republicans."     Emily  at  this  time  was  a  woman  of 
twenty-seven  ;    Anne  was  two  years  younger,  and  she  wrote 
a    similar    memorandum.    These   simple   documents,    which 
Mr.  Nicholls  found  nearly  fifty  years  after  they  were  written, 
resemble  the  childish  compositions  of  schoolgirls.     The  assump- 
tion of  the  different  characters  in  their  plays  was  in  keeping 
with  their  vivid  imagination.     In  the  midst  of  their  anxiety 
about  their  father,  and  the  prospect  of  being  unable  to  earn 
their  own  living,  they  still  retained  their  lively  imagination, 
which  saved  them  from  despair.     This  power  of  transporting 
themselves  to  other  worlds  reminds  one  of  Coleridge,  who  once 
apologised  to  a  staid  citizen  in  the  street,  whom  he  had  knocked 
against,  by  explaining  that  for  the  nonce  he  had  been  Leander 
swimming  the  Hellespont.     He  was  really  preparing  himself 
for  the  Ancient  Mariner,  and  much  else  the  world  would  not 
willingly  let  perish,  though  the  man  thought  he  meant  to  rob 
him,  as  Coleridge's  hand  was  almost  in  the  man's  pocket. 

Charlotte  Bronte  committed  a  grievous  wrong  when  she 
destroyed  the  Gondal  Chronicles  and  the  fairy  tales  composed 
by  her  sisters.  They  would  have  helped  us  to  obtain  a  more 
accurate  view  of  some  members  of  the  Bronte  family,  and  at 
the  present  time  would  have  been  worth  their  weight  in  gold. 


THE  BRONTES'  VIVID  IMAGINATION         289 

In  the  document  by  Emily,  previously  referred  to,  she  quickly 
steps  from  the  imaginative  to  the  practical,  by  saying  she 
must  "  hurry  off  to  her  turning  and  ironing."  The  "  turning  " 
refers  to  the  turning  of  the  mangle,  as  the  clothes  after  being 
folded  had  to  be  mangled  before  they  were  ironed.  Emily 
Bronte,  by  many  considered  the  greatest  woman  writer  of  the 
nineteenth  century,  was  in  the  habit  of  thinking  out  her  poems 
and  plays  whilst  carrying  out  her  ordinary  domestic  duties. 
No  wonder  she  has  been  called  "  the  sphinx  of  literature," 
for,  whilst  a  mystic  and  a  dreamer,  she  was  also  a  practical 
and  capable  housekeeper. 

This  cult  of  the  imagination  was  kept  up  by  the  Brontes  all 
through  their  brief  life,  and  not  dropped  as  in  most  cases  when 
childhood  was  over.  The  quiet  and  solitude  of  the  moors 
fostered  it,  and  the  books  they  read — French  and  German 
as  well  as  English — nourished  it.  It  expressed  itself  in  their 
works,  not  so  much  by  the  facts  which  they  assimilated,  as  by 
the  spirit  of  the  stories. 

This  strong,  imaginative  power  had  its  dangers  for  them ; 
it  tended  to  make  them  over-sensitive  and  morbid,  and  to  give 
way  to  rhapsodies.  It  was  to  a  great  extent  responsible  for 
Branwell's  fall,  and  for  Charlotte's  trying  experience  when  at 
Brussels,  and  yet  what  a  mighty  lever  this  vivid  imagination 
proved.  Without  it,  their  great  novels  would  have  been 
impossible.  It  was  this  intense  imagination  which  clothed  the 
characters  in  their  novels  with  such  power  and  force,  and  made 
them  differ  so  much  from  other  novels,  and  it  was  the  means 
of  opening  out  for  these  timid  and  solitary  girls  a  greater  life, 
which  helped  them  to  believe  in  the  life  beyond. 

For  more  than  forty  years,  Hathersage  failed  to  obtain  the 
honour  of  being  associated  with  the  Bronte  literature,  for  the 
simple  reason  that  Ellen  Nussey  would  not  allow  Mrs.  Gaskell 
to  give  the  names  of  places  and  persons  mentioned  in  Charlotte 
Bronte's  letters.  This  was  unfortunate  in  some  respects, 
but  Mrs.  Gaskell  was  compelled  to  humour  Ellen  Nussey,  and 
be  content  with  initials  instead  of  full  names,  as  she  would  have 
preferred.  Hathersage  is  now  known  to  be  the  "  Morton  " 
(*.£.,  Moor  Town)  of  Jane  Eyre,  and  is  concerned  with  those 

19— (3200) 


290      IN   THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

chapters  in  the  novel  which  range  from  XXVII  to  XXXVI, 
that  is,  from  Jane  Eyre's  leaving  Rochester  at  Thornfield  to 
their  meeting  again  at  Ferndean  Manor.  Readers  of  Mrs. 
GaskelPs  Life  were  curious  to  know  the  place  indicated  by  the 
letter  H,  and  it  was  not  until  about  1888  that  a  Mr.  Hall 

suggested,  in  the  Sheffield  Independent,  that  H might  refer 

to  Hathersage.  Shortly  afterwards  the  Palatine  Note  Book 
copied  the  reference. 

There  were  several  points  which  helped  to  fix  Hathersage 
as  the  Morton  of  Jane  Eyre  :  the  needle  factory,  and  the  actual 
dwelling  known  as  Moorseats,  which  Charlotte  Bronte 
mentions  in  Jane  Eyre  :  her  description  of  the  village  and 
surrounding  country  fitted  very  closely  with  Hathersage  and 
the  neighbourhood,  as  anyone  would  recognise  who  has  visited 
that  charming  part  of  Derbyshire,  which  includes  Castleton 
and  the  village  of  Hope. 

.  The  Moor  House  of  Jane  Eyre  was  suggested  by  Moorseats, 
a  house  near  Hathersage  Vicarage,  which  Charlotte  Bronte 
and  Ellen  Nussey  probably  visited.  The  pebbly  bridle  path 
still  remains.  There  is  also  a  reference  in  Jane  Eyre  to  a  ball 

in  the  neighbouring  town  of  S at  which  the  officers  of  the 

garrison  "  put  all  their  young  knife-grinders  and  scissors- 
merchants  to  shame."  The  allusion  points  so  plainly  to 
Sheffield  that  the  name  might  well  have  been  given  in  full. 

Just  as  Mrs.  GaskelPs  description  of  Monkshaven  in  Sylvia's 
Lovers  led  Mr.  Keene,  the  artist,  to  conclude  that  his  Whitby 
scenes  would  be  suitable  as  guides  to  Du  Maurier,  who  was 
preparing  illustrations  to  the  novel — although  Mr.  Keene 
did  not  know  at  the  time  that  Monkshaven  and  Whitby  were 
the  same — so  Charlotte  Bronte's  description  of  "  Morton 
village  "  led  Mr.  Hall  to  conclude  that  the  Morton  of  the 
story  must  be  the  village  of  Hathersage,  although  he  had 
no  definite  proof  that  she  had  ever  been  there. 

It  was  not  until  Mr.  Shorter  published  Charlotte  Bronte  and 
her  Circle,  in  1896,  that  it  was  found  that  the  statement  in 
the  Sheffield  Independent  was  correct,  for,  in  Mr.  Snorter's 
volume,  the  names  and  places  mentioned  in  Charlotte  Bronte's 
letters  were  printed  in  full  for  the  first  time. 


AN   INVITATION  TO  HATHERSAGE  291 

Charlotte  Bronte  received  an  invitation  to  Hathersage  in 
June,  1845,  from  Ellen  Nussey,  but  it  was  not  until  after  Anne 
Bronte  returned  home  from  Thorpe  Green  that  she  felt  free 
to  accept  the  invitation,  which  at  first  she  had  been  compelled 
to  decline,  owing  to  the  expense  of  the  journey,  and  the  fact 
that  her  father  needed  her,  for  about  this  time  Charlotte  says 
in  her  letter  to  M.  Heger  :  "  My  father  allows  me  now  to  read 
to  him,  and  write  for  him  ;  he  shows  me,  too,  more  confidence 
than  he  has  ever  shown  before,  and  this  is  a  great  consolation." 
Jane  Eyre,  it  will  be  remembered,  was  short  of  money  after 
she  left  Thornfield,  just  as  Charlotte  Bronte  appears  to  have 
been  at  this  time,  for,  on  her  decision  to  leave  Brussels,  she  had 
to  borrow  money  from  Emily.  Mrs.  Gaskell  quotes  the  letter 
from  Ellen  Nussey  to  Charlotte  Bronte  as  referring  to  Birstall 
and  not  to  Hathersage,  and  she  remarks  that  Charlotte  Bronte 
refused  an  invitation  to  the  only  house  to  which  she  was  ever 
invited,  so  that  it  seems  evident  that  Mrs.  Gaskell  did  not 
know  that  it  was  to  Hathersage  that  Charlotte  Bronte  went 
at  this  time.  Ellen  Nussey  blocked  out  the  names  of  places 
and  persons,  which  detracts  from  the  interest  of  the  letters. 

Ellen  Nussey  was  at  Hathersage  to  prepare  a  home  for  her 
brother,  Henry  Nussey,  who  had  been  appointed  Vicar  of 
Hathersage,  and  had  married  immediately  after  his  appoint- 
ment. His  sister  stayed  at  the  Vicarage  whilst  he  was  on  his 
honeymoon;  she  even  had  to  select  some  of  the  furniture, 
and  engage  the  servants,  and  have  everything  in  readiness  for 
the  return  of  the  bride  and  bridegroom.  So  anxious  was  she 
to  persuade  Charlotte  Bronte  to  be  with  her  at  this  time  that 
she  got  her  brother  to  write  to  Charlotte  whilst  he  was  on  his 
honeymoon,  "  for  which  you  deserve  smothering,"  wrote 
Charlotte  to  Ellen  Nussey  in  reply. 

When  Charlotte  Bronte  had  obtained  permission  from  her 
father,  she  prepared  for  the  short  holiday,  informing  Ellen 
Nussey  that  during  her  stay  she  wished  to  visit  Chatsworth 
and  The  Peak.  There  is  no  evidence  that  her  wish  in  this 
respect  was  realised,  for,  if  she  had  visited  the  Hall  at  Chats- 
worth  and  The  Peak,  she  would  probably  have  found  some 
place  for  them  in  her  story.  Travelling  from  Keighley, 


292       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

she  left  the  train  at  Sheffield  and  continued  her  journey  to 
Hathersage  by  coach — a  distance  of  about  ten  miles. 

In  Jane  Eyre  Whitcross  is  mentioned  with  its  white  posts. 

When  Jane  Eyre  heard  Rochester's  voice  calling,  she  tells 
us  she  left  Moor  House  at  three  o'clock  and  reached  Whitcross 
soon  after  four  o'clock.  A  native  of  that  part  of  Derbyshire 
writes  :  "  Whitcross,  therefore,  must  be  the  cross  roads  by  the 
Fox  House,  up  above  Longshawe  and  Grindleford  Bridge." 

It  was  at  the  end  of  June  or  the  beginning  of  July  that 
Charlotte  Bronte"  went  to  Hathersage,  and  the  visit  was  fixed 
well  in  her  mind,  for  two  years  later  she  published  Jane 
Eyre's  description  of  her  doings  in  the  village  of  Morton,  which 
may  well  be  true  to  fact,  for  at  that  time  she  was  quite  undecided 
as  to  her  destiny ;  she  wanted  to  visit  Paris,  and  to  revisit 
Brussels,  and  yet  something  kept  her  back,  and  chained  her 
to  the  old  house,  from  which  in  two  years  she  was  to  startle 
the  literary  world  with  her  great  novel. 

The  church  and  parsonage  are  on  the  steep  hill,  which  must 
be  climbed  from  the  village. 

In  comparing  the  account  of  Jane  Eyre's  visit  to  Morton, 
so  accurate  is  the  descriptive  part,  that  Charlotte  Bronte 
would  seem  to  have  taken  notes  on  the  spot.  The  actual  road 
by  which  she  went  can  be  traced,  as  the  place  has  changed 
very  little. 

In  the  field  referred  to  in  the  novel  there  is  a  brook  with  some 
stepping-stones,  which  Charlotte  Bronte"  and  Ellen  Nussey 
must  have  used.  One  of  these  stones  is  dated,  and  it  is  curious 
that  Charlotte  Bronte  did  not  mention  it.  The  way  by  the 
stepping-stones  is  the  nearest  by  which  to  reach  Moorseats,  the 
original  of  Moor  House.  There  is  also  a  mound  or  ancient 
Roman  Camp  near  the  entrance  to  the  church  from  the  field 
path.  To  get  to  Moorseats  by  the  field  a  small  wood  must 
be  traversed. 

The  steps  at  Moorseats,  leading  to  the  kitchen  door,  are  well 
worn,  and  green  with  mould  ;  it  was  on  these  steps  that  Jane 
Eyre  fainted  and  was  found  by  St.  John  Rivers.  A  low  window 
allows  a  view  of  the  interior.  The  kitchen  is  larger  than  the 


HATHERSAGE  VILLAGE  293 

corresponding  room  at  the  Haworth  parsonage,  and  the  same 
may  be  said  of  the  other  rooms  of  the  house.  Behind  is  a 
thickly- wooded  copse. 

It  is  unfortunate  that  Charlotte  Bronte  s  letters  to  her 
sisters  at  home  have  not  been  preserved,  as  it  is  probable  that 
they  supplied  descriptive  accounts  of  the  places  which  she 
visited. 

Although  there  is  plenty  of  moorland  around  Hathersage, 
the  scenery  is  quite  different  from  that  in  the  neighbourhood 
of  Haworth.  This  part  of  Derbyshire  is  more  thickly  wooded 
than  the  Haworth  moors,  which  are  almost  devoid  of  trees, 
and  the  white  limestone  roads  are  a  marked  contrast  to  the 
roads  of  the  West  Riding  of  Yorkshire.  Hathersage  is  a 
typical  Derbyshire  village,  with  its  clean  stone  houses  dotted 
here  and  there,  a  few  shops,  the  village  inn  and  post  office, 
and  the  church  on  the  hillside,  with  its  tall  spire.  Needles, 
metal  buttons  and  shackle  pins  are  no  longer  manufactured 
at  Hathersage  as  in  Charlotte  Bronte's  days.  It  is  still  a 
small  village,  built  on  the  steep  slope  of  a  hill  and  surrounded 
by  mountainous  tracts,  whose  barren  summits  and  dark 
declivities  agreeably  contrast  with  the  verdure  of  the  smiling 
vale  they  envelop.  Great  masses  of  rock,  of  all  shapes  and 
sizes,  lie  scattered  about  the  moorland,  some  grey  with 
clinging  moss  and  lichen,  others  furrowed  and  weather-beaten. 
The  view  of  Hathersage  from  the  main  road  is  very  fine, 
standing  out  on  the  hill  slope  with  the  church  above  the  green 
knoll  in  front,  and  the  vicarage  sheltered  by  the  trees.  Moor- 
seats  is  on  the  opposite  hill,  and  further  up  the  valley  is  the 
house  called  North  Lees,  the  ancestral  home  of  the  Eyres, 
which  has  been  thought  to  be  the  original  of  Moor  House, 
but  it  is  too  large,  and  neither  in  appearance  nor  interior 
arrangement  does  it  accord  with  Charlotte  Bronte°s  description. 
The  people  at  the  parsonage  were  on  visiting  terms  with  the 
family  at  Moorseats,  according  to  Ellen  Nussey's  account, 
and  Charlotte  Bronte  got  her  impressions  of  the  place  from 
visiting  with  Ellen  Nussey. 

Charlotte  Bronte  visited  Hathersage  only  once,  though  in 
Charlotte  Bronte  and  her  Circle  she  is  said  to  have  been  at 


294       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTfiS 

Hathersage  on  two  occasions,  but  the  H  in  another  of  Charlotte 
Bronte  s  letters  refers  to  Hunsworth  and  not  to  Hathersage. 
Her  one  visit,  however,  to  Hathersage  was  sufficient  to  give 
it  a  place  in  her  great  novel.  She  gives  us  just  her  own  impres- 
sions ;  there  is  no  indication  that  she  read  any  history  of  the 
place,  but  in  the  three  weeks  visit  she  made  good  use  of  her 
opportunities,  and  with  her  love  of  landscape  she  revelled  in 
the  scenery. 

The  calling  at  Moor  House,  on  her  way  from  Thornfield,  is 
quite  in  keeping  with  her  flight  from  Brussels,  for  the  family 
at  Moor  House  compares  favourably  with  the  people  at  the 
Haworth  parsonage.  Hannah,  the  North  Country  servant,  is 
undoubtedly  "  Old  Tabby,"  who  speaks  broad  Yorkshire 
with  the  Haworth  dialect.  There  is  nothing  in  her  speech 
to  remind  us  of  the  softer  tones  of  Derbyshire.  Diana  and 
Mary,  who  are  found  reading  German  books  in  the  kitchen, 
are  easily  identified  as  Emily  and  Anne  Bronte,  and  it  is 
St.  John  Rivers,  who  has  been  on  his  pastoral  visits  when  he 
finds  Jane  Eyre  on  the  steps  of  his  house.  St.  John  as  a 
character  owes  something  to  Patrick  Bronte,  Henry  Nussey 
and  Mr.  Weightman. 

The  church  is  situated  at  the  upper  end  of  the  village. 
Like  the  church  at  Haworth  and  Ste.  Gudule's,  in  Brussels,  it 
is  dedicated  to  St.  Michael.  There  is  also  a  high,  octagonal 
spire.  The  church  has  been  renovated  since  Charlotte  Bronte 
and  Ellen  Nussey  worshipped  in  it,  and  several  stained-glass 
windows  have  been  added  by  some  of  the  old  Hathersage 
residents. 

The  Rev.  Henry  Nussey  does  not  seem  to  have  kept  the 
fabric  of  the  church  in  very  good  condition,  for  his  successor 
spent  nearly  £2,000  in  renovating  it,  so  that  when  Charlotte 
Bronte  was  there  it  must  have  been  in  a  somewhat  dilapidated 
condition. 

The  most  conspicuous  monument  in  the  church  is  the  tomb 
of  Robert  Eyre.  On  the  top  of  the  tomb  is  a  full-length  brass 
plate  in  which  is  depicted  the  figure  of  a  knight  in  armour,  and 
by  his  side  is  his  wife  clothed  in  the  costume  of  the  reign  of 
Edward  IV. 


HATHERSAGE  AND  JANE  EYRE  295 

There  are  several  other  monuments  in  the  Hathersage 
church  to  the  memory  of  the  Eyre  family,  but  there  is  little 
known  of  this  once  powerful  family  in  the  Peak  District  in 
Derbyshire. 

Joanna  Eyre,  of  the  Eyre  monument,  in  the  Hathersage 
church,  has  for  long  been  credited  with  being  the  origin  of  the 
title  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  great  novel,  Jane  Eyre.  Whether 
this  is  so  or  no  is  uncertain,  but  there  is  no  doubt  that  Charlotte 
Bronte*  would  be  greatly  attracted  by  the  Eyre  tomb,  with  its 
long  brass  plate,  effigies  and  inscription,  but  Hathersage  only 
occupies  nine  chapters  of  the  novel,  and  Jane,  the  heroine, 
dominates  the  whole  book. 

It  is  probable  that  the  name  "  Jane  "  in  Jane  Eyre  was 
suggested  by  the  Christian  name  of  her  favourite  sister, 
Emily  Jane  Bronte — "  Mine  bonnie  love,"  as  Charlotte  calls 
her.  The  name  "  Jane "  was  also  a  commonplace  name, 
which  Charlotte  thought  would  be  most  suitable  for  the 
character  of  her  heroine,  who  was  to  be  plain,  and  by  no  means 
beautiful.  Harriet  Martineau  tells  us  that  Charlotte  Bronte 
once  remarked  to  her  sisters  that  they  were  wrong — even 
morally  wrong — in  making  their  heroines  beautiful  as  a  matter 
of  course.  They  replied  that  it  was  impossible  to  make  a 
heroine  interesting  on  any  other  terms,  to  which  she  said : 
"  I  will  prove  to  you  that  you  are  wrong  :  I  will  show  you  a 
heroine  as  plain  and  small  as  myself,  who  shall  be  as  interesting 
as  any  of  yours."  "  Hence :  Jane  Eyre,"  said  Harriet 
Martineau,  in  relating  the  incident. 

In  The  Professor,  which  was  written  before  Jane  Eyre,  the 
long  poem  which  Frances  repeated  in  Chapter  XXIII  has 
"  Jane  "  for  the  heroine,  and  it  is  quite  evident  in  reading 
the  poem  that  Charlotte  Bronte  was  the  original  of  "  Jane," 
just  as  she  is  in  Jane  Eyre. 

Most  writers  contend  that  the  title  of  the  novel  originated 
in  Charlotte  Bronte's  visit  to  Hathersage.  Here  she  saw  the 
old  tombstone,  with  its  inscription,  Joanna  Eyre,  and  forthwith 
she  gave  her  novel,  which  was  written  two  years  afterwards, 
the  title  of  Jane  Eyre.  This  is  the  generally  accepted  explana- 
tion. But  the  word  Eyre  is  a  legal  term,  dating  from  the 


296      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

time  of  Henry  II,  and  simply  means  "itinerant."  Judges 
on  circuit  are  still  described  as  "  His  Majesty's  Justices  in 
Eyre."  Whether  Charlotte  Bronte  knew  this  is  not  certain. 

The  novel  is  largely  autobiographical,  as  is  now  well  known, 
and  is  based  on  facts  in  Charlotte  Bronte's  life,  from  going  to 
school  at  Cowan  Bridge,  Lowood,  to  her  return  from  Hather- 
sage  (Morton)  to  Wycoller  Hall  near  Haworth  (Ferndean 
Manor)  in  1848.  Shortly  after  she  returned  from  Hathersage, 
her  father  became  blind,  but  after  an  operation  his  sight  was 
restored.  The  novelist  was  with  her  father  during  the  operation 
for  cataract  at  Manchester,  and  during  the  period  when  he 
began  to  distinguish  colours  and  recover  his  eyesight,  which 
she  utilised  in  her  description  of  Rochester's  recovery  of  his 
sight.  This  may  also  have  been  suggested  by  the  fact  that 
M.  Heger,  who  contributed  something  to  the  character  of 
Rochester,  suffered  in  early  manhood  from  defective  eyesight, 
but  he  regained  his  normal  sight  in  later  days.  This  fact 
explains  why  Charlotte  tells  M.  Heger  of  her  weak  eyesight 
in  her  letters  to  him.  In  her  correspondence  with  M.  Heger 
there  is  an  evident  craving  for  sympathy. 

Jane  Eyre  is  an  account  of  the  itinerary  or  wandering  of  the 
plain  little  heroine,  who  is  none  other  than  Charlotte  Bronte 
herself,  and,  therefore,  it  is  possible  that  Joanna  Eyre  may 
not  be  responsible  for  the  title  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  novel. 

The  Hathersage  parsonage,  where  Charlotte  Bronte  stayed, 
has  been  enlarged  since  1845.  Its  situation  is  just  as  the 
novelist  described  it :  "  Near  the  churchyard,  and  in  the 
middle  of  a  garden  stood  a  well-built  though  small  house, 
which  I  had  no  doubt  was  the  parsonage."  In  many  respects 
it  resembles  the  Haworth  parsonage,  though  the  garden  is 
longer,  and  the  churchyard  is  not  so  near  the  house.  It  is 
approached  by  a  narrow  lane,  as  is  the  case  with  the  Haworth 
vicarage,  so  that  Charlotte  Bronte  would  not  feel  that  she  was 
in  totally  different  surroundings.  In  her  time,  there  were 
four  rather  small  rooms  on  the  ground  floor,  and  four  on  the 
first  floor,  and  a  narrow  passage  ran  through  the  house  from 
front  to  rear 

In  the  churchyard,  visitors  are  shown  the  burial  place  of 


CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  LEAVES   HATHERSAGE  297 

John  Nailor,  Robin  Hood's  giant  henchman,  better  known  as 
"  Little  John." 

In  Jane  Eyre  Charlotte  Bronte  mentions  Robin  Hood's 
grave,  which  she  saw  when  a  pupil  at  Roe  Head,  near  Hudders- 
field,  and  she  would  be  interested  that  his  faithful  henchman 
was  reputed  to  be  buried  at  Hathersage. 

The  novelist  probably  wandered  to  the  surrounding  villages 
during  her  stay  at  Hathersage.  The  beautiful  district,  which 
includes  the  Vale  of  Hope,  Castleton,  Hassop,  Tissington,  and 
Ashbourne,  is  now  much  more  frequented  than  it  was  in 
Charlotte  Bronte's  days,  partly  owing  to  the  opening  of  the 
Dore  and  Chinley  railway,  whereas  formerly  it  was  reached 
from  one  direction  by  driving  or  walking  from  Sheffield. 

Charlotte  Bronte  left  Hathersage  on  23rd  July,  1845.  On 
her  journey  home  from  Sheffield  to  Leeds,  she  travelled  with 
a  gentleman,  whose  features  and  bearing  betrayed  him  to  be 
a  Frenchman.  Putting  aside  her  natural  shyness,  she  inquired 
in  French  if  he  were  not  a  Frenchman,  and  on  his  replying  in 
the  affirmative,  she  further  asked  if  he  had  not  spent  some 
time  in  Germany,  as  she  detected  the  thick,  guttural  pro- 
nunciation. She  evidently  enjoyed  the  journey,  pleasantly 
beguiled  by  conversation  in  the  language  in  which  she  had 
become  proficient.  It  is  now  known  by  the  light  of  her  recently 
published  letters  in  The  Times,  sent  to  M.  Heger  in  1844-45, 
that  the  real  reason  for  her  conversation  with  the  Frenchman 
was  that  he  reminded  her  of  M.  Heger  :  "  Every  word  was 
most  precious  to  me,  because  it  reminded  me  of  you.  I  love 
French  for  your  sake  with  all  my  heart  and  soul,"  she  writes. 

It  was  on  the  return  from  this  visit  to  Derbyshire  in  July, 
1845,  that  she  found  Bran  well  at  home,  after  his  dismissal 
from  Thorpe  Green  ;  when  she  ascertained  the  true  reason, 
she  was  extremely  angry  with  her  brother.  Possibly  she 
would  not  have  said  so  much  against  him  to  Ellen  Nussey, 
but  that  she  had  to  give  a  reason  for  not  inviting  her  friend 
to  Ha  worth  during  the  autumn,  as  she  had  wished. 

It  was  in  the  November  after  Charlotte  returned  from 
Hathersage  that  she  sent  what  appears  to  be  her  last  letter  to 
M.  Heger,  which  is  dated  November,  1845. 


CHAPTER  XXII 

THE   PUBLISHING  VENTURE,    1845-1846 

POEMS 

SIMILARITY  of  Emily  and  Anne  BrontS's  literary  taste — Emily  Bronte 
the  moving  spirit  in  literary  work — Charlotte  Bronte's  introduction 
to  Wuthering  Heights  and  Agnes  Grey — Emily  Bronte's  surpassing 
genius — Collection  of  the  BrontS  poems  for  publication — Assumed 
names  of  authors — Attempts  to  find  a  publisher — Cost  of  publication 
— Publishing  venture  a  financial  failure — Reviews  of  the  volume  of 
poems — Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte. 

ALTHOUGH  Charlotte  Bronte  has  always  been  credited  with 
taking  the  initiative  in  the  three  sisters  becoming  authors,  it 
is  much  more  probable  that  Emily  was  the  moving  spirit. 
Whilst  Anne  was  away  from  home,  Emily  had  great  sympathy 
with  her,  and  spoke  of  her  as  "  exiled  and  harassed,"  and  this 
was  even  before  Anne's  hard  four  years  at  Thorpe  Green. 
When  she  returned  in  June,  1845,  no  reason  was  given  why  she 
should  stay  at  home  permanently,  but  it  was  evidently  Emily 
who  determined  to  try  to  direct  their  talents  into  other  channels 
than  teaching,  in  order  to  avoid  their  separation  from  the  old 
home. 

Emily  and  Anne,  though  differing  in  ability,  were  very 
similar  in  their  tastes  and  habits  :  both  were  devoted  to  animals, 
and  each  had  her  own  pets.  Their  poetry  was  by  no  means 
similar,  and  yet  they  both  directed  their  thoughts  into  the 
same  channels — the  Gondal  Chronicles,  their  respective  poems 
on  "The  Old  Home,"  and  their  "Last  Lines."  Emily  was 
evidently  a  source  of  great  strength  to  Anne,  for  when  Mr. 
Clement  Shorter  published  the  Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte 
he  included  with  them  four  of  Anne's,  which  it  is  suggested 
were  in  Emily's  handwriting,  though  it  was  ascertained  that 
they  had  been  published  sixty  years  before  by  Charlotte 
BrontS  herself  as  Anne's  work. 

For  years  these  two  devoted  sisters  had  been  sharing  each 
other's  confidence  with  regard  to  their  literary  work,  and  it 
was  probably  Emily  who  saw  a  means  of  earning  money  by 
their  pens,  before  Charlotte  mentioned  it.  The  two  little 

298 


DISCOVERY   OF   BRONTE  JOURNALS         299 

memoranda,  written  at  intervals  of  four  years,  1841  and  1845, 
were  to  be  opened  on  Emily's  birthday.  It  was  Emily  who 
started  the  mysterious  Gondal  Chronicles,  in  which  she  and 
Anne  collaborated.  It  seems  likely  that  one  sister  took 
the  side  of  the  Royalists,  whilst  the  other  favoured  the  Republi- 
cans. It  is  a  pity  that  Charlotte,  carrying  out  what  she  said 
were  her  sister's  wishes,  destroyed  those  strange  chronicles. 
Charlotte  had  stated,  years  before,  that  their  best  plays  were 
written  secretly,  and  it  was  not  until  forty  years  afterwards, 
when  Mr.  Nicholls  was  looking  over  the  Bronte  relics,  subse- 
quent to  Mr.  Shorter's  visit  in  1895,  that  four  little  journals 
were  brought  to  light,  being  discovered  folded  up  in  the  smallest 
possible  space  in  a  tiny  pin  box.  These  four  short  memoranda 
were  much  more  important  than  the  discoverers  recognised, 
and,  although  Mr.  Nicholls  referred  to  them  as  "  sad  reading," 
they  were  extremely  interesting,  for  they  contain  the  only 
information  available  concerning  the  Gondal  Chronicles,  which 
have  been  a  mystery  for  so  many  years,  and  which  Emily 
tells  us  had  engaged  the  attention  of  the  two  sisters  for  three 
and  a  half  years. 

Mr.  Shorter,  in  his  Life  and  Letters  of  the  Brontes,  says, 
"  There  is  wonderfully  little  difference  in  the  tone  or  spirit  of 
the  journals."  It  is  scarcely  possible,  however,  to  agree  with 
this  view,  as  there  appears  to  be  a  marked  difference  even  in 
the  view  which  the  Bronte  sisters  take  of  the  Gondals. 

In  her  1845  memorandum,  Anne  says,  "  Emily  is  writing  the 
Emperor  Julius'  Life,  and  also  some  poetry,"  but  she  did  not 
know  what  the  subject  was,  and  then  she  goes  on  to  say  : 

"  I  have  begun  the  third  volume  of  Passages  in  the  Life 
of  an  Individual.  Emily  and  I  have  a  lot  of  work  to  do.  When 
shall  we  sensibly  diminish  it  ?  I  want  to  get  a  habit  of  early 
rising.  Shall  I  succeed  ?  We  have  not  yet  finished  our 
Gondal  Chronicles  that  we  begun  three  and  a  half  years  ago. 
When  will  they  be  done  ?  The  Gondals  are  at  present  in  a 
sad  state.  The  Republicans  are  uppermost,  but  the  Royalists 
are  not  quite  overcome.  The  young  sovereigns  with  their 
brothers  and  sisters  are  still  at  the  Palace  of  Instruction. 
The  Unique  Society  about  half  a  year  ago  were  wrecked  on  a 


300      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

desert  island,  as  they  were  returning  from  Gaul.  They  are 
still  there,  but  we  have  not  played  at  them  much  yet.  The 
Gondals  in  general  are  not  in  a  first-rate  playing  condition. 
Will  they  improve  ?  " l 

This  habit  of  making  a  statement  and  then  questioning  it 
is  Anne's  peculiar  style.  Emily  tells  us  that  she  is  writing  a 
work  on  the  First  War,  and  that  Anne  is  writing  some  articles 
on  this  and  a  book  by  Henry  Sophona. 

"  The  Gondals  still  flourish  bright  as  ever.  We  intend 
sticking  firm  by  the  rascals  as  long  as  they  delight  us,  which 
I  am  glad  to  say  that  they  do  at  present."  The  sisters  evi- 
dently regard  the  Gondals  in  different  lights.  Whilst  to 
Emily  they  remain  bright  as  ever,  to  Anne  they  are  con- 
sidered to  be  in  a  sad  state.  Again,  Emily  mentions  that 
she  wishes  "  Everybody  should  be  as  comfortable  and  undes- 
ponding  as  herself,  and  then  we  should  have  a  very  tolerable 
world  of  it."  Whilst  poor  Anne  says,  "  I,  for  my  part,  cannot 
well  be  flatter  or  older  in  mind  than  I  am  now."  Anne 
mentions  that  Charlotte  wishes  to  go  to  Paris  as  governess. 
Emily's  view  of  the  whole  situation  is  the  more  hopeful,  for 
she  says  :  "  I  am  quite  content  for  myself  ....  having  learnt 
to  make  the  most  of  the  present,  and  long  for  the  future  with 
the  fidgetiness  that  I  cannot  do  all  I  wish."1 

It  was  Emily  who  dreamed  dreams,  and  saw  visions  of  her- 
self and  Anne  coming  before  the  world  as  authors,  though  it  is 
very  certain  they  meant  to  stick  to  their  anonymity.  She 
concludes  her  little  document  as  follows  :  "I  have  plenty  of 
work  on  hands,  and  writing,  and  am  altogether  full  of  business." 
This  was  written  on  30th  July,  just  after  Charlotte  Bronte 
returned  from  Hathersage,  and  before  she  had  discovered 
that  Emily  and  Anne  had  written  a  number  of  poems  which 
she  considered  were  worthy  of  being  published. 

Both  Emily  and  Anne  mention  that  Branwell  was  ill,  and 
had  gone  to  Liverpool.    There  is  a  little  reference  to  Tabby 
in  Emily's  journal,  which  has  puzzled  many.     "  Tabby  has 
just  been  teasing  me  to  turn  as  formerly  to  '  Pilloputate.' ' 
This,  according  to  the  Yorkshire  verdict,  refers  to  the  peeling 

1  Charlotte  Bronte  and  her  Circle,  by  Clement  K.  Shorter. 


WUTHERING  HEIGHTS  AND  AGNES  GREY    301 

of  the  potatoes.  Yorkshire  people  speak  of  "  pilling  potates," 
and  they  refer  to  potato  peelings  as  "  potati  pillings."  Emily 
had  evidently  taken  upon  herself  to  peel  the  potatoes  for  the 
household  when  Charlotte  and  Anne  were  away,  but  on  their 
return,  she  relinquished  some  of  her  domestic  duties,  including 
the  preparation  of  the  potatoes.  In  later  days,  Charlotte 
Bronte  told  Mrs.  Gaskell  that  she  found  that  Tabby  did  not 
take  the  eyes  out  of  the  potatoes  when  she  peeled  them,  and 
therefore  Charlotte  was  accustomed  to  go  to  the  kitchen  and 
finish  the  peeling  of  the  potatoes  without  letting  Tabby  know. 
Emily  was  not  only  the  genius  of  the  family,  but  she  was  also 
thoroughly  domesticated. 

If  Charlotte  had  gone  to  Paris  as  she  had  wished,  her  two 
sisters  would  have  worked  on  at  home  at  their  writing,  for 
Emily  states  that  they  had  enough  money  for  their  present 
needs,  with  the  prospect  of  accumulation.  Earlier  in  the 
document  she  says  that  they  tried  to  start  a  school  and  had 
failed,  but  that  at  this  time  "  None  of  them  had  any  great 
longing  for  it." 

The  only  private  money  that  they  had  was  the  small  dividends 
obtained  from  the  legacy  left  by  their  aunt,  and  "  the  prospect 
of  accumulated  funds  "  could  only  have  referred  to  money 
earned  by  writing.  Anne  had  decided  to  stay  at  home  per- 
manently, and  she  and  Emily  both  leave  it  on  record  that  they 
had  more  than  enough  to  do,  and  were  very  busy  writing. 

Five  years  later,  probably  owing  to  the  confusion  of  the 
names  of  the  three  Bronte  sisters  as  three  separate  authors, 
Messrs.  Smith,  Elder  &  Co.  asked  Charlotte  to  explain  exactly 
how  they  started  their  literary  work.  Emily  and  Anne  had 
been  dead  two  years  when  Charlotte  wrote  by  way  of  preface 
to  the  second  edition  of  Wuthering  Heights  and  Agnes  Grey— 

"  One  day  in  the  autumn  of  1845,  I  accidentally  lighted  on 
a  MS.  volume  of  verse  in  my  sister  Emily's  handwriting.  Of 
course,  I  was  not  surprised,  knowing  that  she  could  and  did 
write  verse  :  I  looked  it  over,  and  something  more  than  surprise 
seized  me — a  deep  conviction  that  these  were  not  common 
effusions,  nor  at  all  like  the  poetry  women  generally  write. 


302      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

I  thought  them  condensed  and  terse,  vigorous  and  genuine. 
To  my  ear  they  had  also  a  peculiar  music,  wild,  melancholy, 
and  elevating.  My  sister  Emily  was  not  a  person  of  demon- 
strative character,  nor  one,  on  the  recesses  of  whose  mind  and 
feelings,  even  those  nearest  and  dearest  to  her  could,  with 
impunity,  intrude  unlicensed  ;  it  took  hours  to  reconcile  her 
to  the  discovery  I  had  made,  and  days  to  persuade  her  that 
such  poems  merited  publication.  .  .  .  Meantime,  my  younger 
sister  quietly  produced  some  of  her  own  compositions,  intimat- 
ing that  since  Emily's  had  given  me  pleasure,  I  might  like  to 
look  at  hers.  I  could  not  but  be  a  partial  judge,  yet  I  thought 
that  these  verses  too  had  a  sweet  sincere  pathos  of  their  own. 
We  had  very  early  cherished  the  dream  of  one  day  becoming 
authors.  .  .  .  We  agreed  to  arrange  a  small  selection  of  our 
poems,  and,  if  possible,  to  get  them  printed." 

This  explanation  proves  that  Emily  did  not  mean  Charlotte 
to  know  of  the  MS.  volume  of  verse,  and  it  hints  at  the  fact 
that  Emily  and  Anne  were  working  with  the  intention  of 
publishing.  Possibly  if  Charlotte  had  gone  to  Paris,  as  they 
seem  to  have  expected,  they  hoped  to  have  a  surprise  in  store 
for  her  by  presenting  her  with  a  published  book  of  their  poems. 
The  result,  however,  was  that  Charlotte,  as  the  oldest,  took 
charge  of  all  correspondence  relating  to  publishing.  It  is 
probable  that  Emily  might  have  been  more  successful,  but  as 
Charlotte  says  in  the  preface  previously  mentioned  :  "  She 
(Emily)  had  no  worldly  wisdom  ;  her  powers  were  unadapted 
to  the  practical  business  of  life  ;  she  would  fail  to  defend  her 
most  manifest  rights,  to  consult  her  most  legitimate  advan- 
tage "  ;  and  yet  M.  Heger  considered  her  much  cleverer  than 
Charlotte. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  tells  us — 

"  He  seems  to  have  rated  Emily's  genius  as  something  even 
higher  than  Charlotte's  "  ;  and  her  estimation  of  their  relative 
powers  was  the  same.  Emily  had  a  head  for  logic,  and  a  capa- 
bility of  argument,  unusual  in  a  man,  and  rare  indeed  in  a 
woman,  according  to  M.  Heger.  Impairing  the  force  of  this 
gift  was  her  stubborn  tenacity  of  will,  which  rendered  her 


M.  HEGER'S  ESTIMATION  OF  EMILY  BRONTE  303 

obtuse  to  all  reasoning  where  her  own  wishes,  or  her  own  sense 
of  right,  was  concerned.  "  She  should  have  been  a  man — 
a  great  navigator,"  said  M.  Heger  in  speaking  of  her.  "  Her 
powerful  reason  would  have  deduced  new  spheres  of  discovery 
from  the  knowledge  of  the  old  ;  and  her  strong,  imperious 
will  would  never  have  been  daunted  by  opposition  or  difficulty  ; 
never  have  given  way  but  with  life.  And  yet,  moreover, 
her  faculty  of  imagination  was  such  that,  if  she  had  written 
a  history,  her  view  of  scenes  and  characters  would  have  been 
so  vivid,  and  so  powerfully  expressed,  and  supported  by  such 
a  show  of  argument,  that  it  would  have  dominated  over  the 
reader,  whatever  might  have  been  his  previous  opinions,  or 
his  cooler  perceptions  of  its  truth."  Dr.  Paul  Heger,  the  son 
of  M.  Heger,  tells  me  that  his  father  could  not  read  English 
sufficiently  well  to  understand  Withering  Heights,  and  as  it 
was  not  translated  into  French  until  1892,  under  the  title  of 
UAmant,  he  could  hardly  have  digested  it  in  1855,  but  it  is 
certainly  remarkable  that  in  the  few  months  Emily  was 
at  Brussels  he  should  have  grasped  her  character  so 
accurately. 

Also  old  Mr.  Bronte  told  Mrs.  Gaskell  that  he  considered 
Emily  the  cleverest  of  the  sisters,  and  in  this  the  sexton's 
family  agreed.  Critics  have  failed  to  give  Emily  her  due, 
but  now,  nearly  seventy  years  later,  the  whole  literary  world 
is  prepared  to  put  Emily  before  Charlotte,  both  as  a  poet  and 
as  a  novelist.  The  old  servants  at  the  parsonage,  as  well  as 
several  who  knew  the  Brontes,  had  nothing  but  good  to  say 
of  Emily  Bronte,  and  Emily  Jane  was  the  name  given  to  more 
than  one  child  in  Haworth  in  honour  of  the  author  of  Wuthering 
Heights. 

Seniority  in  age  counted  for  much  in  the  early  Victorian 
days  ;  Charlotte  had  more  enthusiasm  than  Emily,  was  more 
impulsive,  and  when  she  was  roused  she  was  anxious  to  act 
at  once.  Evidently  against  the  will  of  Emily,  she  persuaded 
her  to  join  with  Anne  and  herself  in  compiling  a  book  of  their 
own  poems.  The  information  gained  from  the  minute  journals, 
only  discovered  half-a-century  later,  shows  how  determined 
Emily  and  Anne  were  that  Charlotte  should  not  know  what 


304       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

they  were  doing.  If  in  later  days  Charlotte  had  found  these 
precious  little  documents,  the  probability  is  she  would  have 
destroyed  them  with  the  other  manuscripts,  for  which  it  is 
hard  to  forgive  her. 

Charlotte  tells  us  that  the  issuing  of  their  little  book  of 
poems  was  a  difficult  task,  which  seems  to  imply  that  they  had 
some  trouble  in  deciding  what  to  include  and  what  to  reject, 
in  addition  to  the  difficulty  of  finding  a  publisher. 

Charlotte  undertook  the  post  of  editor,  and  she  arranged 
twenty- three  poems  of  her  own,  twenty-two  of  Emily's  and 
twenty-one  of  Anne's.  How  significant  these  numbers  are 
when  the  respective  ages  of  the  sisters  are  considered  !  Then 
came  the  question  of  assigning  the  author's  name,  and  so  to 
facilitate  matters  they  decided  to  adopt  names  that  were 
neither  decidedly  masculine  nor  feminine.  In  Yorkshire  it 
is  still  a  common  custom  to  use  a  surname  for  the  first  name, 
and  the  Bionte  sisters,  in  order  to  be  impartial,  retained  their 
own  initials.  Charlotte  adopted  the  name  "  Currer,"  Emily 
became  "  Ellis  "  and  Anne  was  "  Acton  " — all  taking  the 
surname  of  "  Bell."  It  has  not  been  difficult  to  trace  the  origin 
of  Charlotte's  assumed  name,  for  not  far  from  Haworth  lived 
Miss  Frances  Mary  Richardson  Currer,  of  Eshton  Hall,  near 
Skipton,  who  finds  a  place  in  the  Dictionary  of  National 
Biography. 

The  three  groups  of  poems  are  all  very  different  in  spirit, 
and  they  range  over  a  number  of  years  from  their  early  youth 
to  the  time  of  publication.  In  the  opinion  of  the  Bronte 
sisters,  it  was  the  correct  thing  to  publish  poetry  first,  for  had 
not  Charlotte  already  written  to  Southey,  Coleridge  and 
Wordsworth,  and  had  not  the  sisters  also  read  most  of  the 
English  poets  ? 

After  many  failures,  a  firm  of  booksellers  in  Paternoster 
Row,  Messrs.  Aylott  and  Jones,  agreed  to  publish  the  book  for 
thirty  guineas,  which  the  sisters,  poor  as  they  were,  consented 
to  advance.  When  the  book  was  printed,  they  had  to  pay 
another  £2,  and  later  still  another  £10,  to  defray  the  cost  of 
advertising  the  book  in  magazines  which  they  selected.  Added 
to  this  was  a  further  expense  of  £5,  due  to  an  error  in  the 


A  VOLUME  OF  POEMS  305 

estimate.  From  this  was  deducted  11s.  9d.,  so  that  altogether 
they  advanced  nearly  £48.  This  was  a  large  sum  of  money  for 
the  Bronte  sisters  to  find,  but  they  sacrificed  it  hopefully.  They 
had  the  satisfaction  of  seeing  the  poems  actually  printed,  and 
their  pseudonyms  on  the  title  page. 

The  result  is  an  old  story ;  only  two  copies  were  sold,  but 
one  of  the  purchasers,  a  Mr.  F.  Enoch — a  song-writer — was 
so  struck  by  the  genius  which  the  poems  displayed  that  he 
wrote  through  the  publishers  asking  for  the  signatures  of  the 
three  poets.  This  request  was  graciously  granted,  but  the 
real  names  were  not  disclosed.  The  original  slip  of  paper 
is  now  in  the  Bronte  Museum  at  Haworth. 

In  the  biographical  notice  of  her  sisters,  Charlotte  writes — 

"  The  book  was  printed  ;  it  is  scarcely  known,  and  all  of 
it  that  merits  to  be  known  are  the  poems  of  Ellis  Bell.  The 
fixed  conviction  I  held,  and  hold,  of  the  worth  of  these  poems, 
has  not,  indeed,  received  the  confirmation  of  much  favourable 
criticism,  but  I  must  retain  it  notwithstanding."  Charlotte 
knew  good  poetry  when  she  saw  it,  and  she  was  right  in  giving 
the  highest  praise  to  Emily,  as  everyone  recognises  now. 

Charlotte,  ever  the  ambitious  member  of  the  family,  sent 
copies  of  the  book  of  poems  to  Wordsworth,  De  Quincey, 
Tennyson  and  Lockhart,  and,  if  the  letters  of  acknowledgment 
are  not  forthcoming,  the  account  of  this  gift  finds  a  place  in 
each  of  the  biographies  of  the  recipients — 

"  To  THOMAS  DE  QUINCEY. 

"  SIR, — My  relatives,  Ellis  and  Acton  Bell,  and  myself,  heed- 
less of  the  warning  of  various  respectable  publishers,  have 
committed  the  rash  act  of  printing  a  volume  of  poems. 

"  The  consequences  predicted  have,  of  course,  overtaken  us  : 
our  book  is  found  to  be  a  drug  ;  no  man  needs  it  or  heeds  it. 
In  the  space  of  a  year  our  publisher  has  disposed  but  of  two 
copies,  and  by  what  painful  efforts  he  succeeded  in  getting  rid 
of  these  two,  himself  only  knows. 

"  Before  transferring  the  edition  to  the  trunkmakers,  we 
have  decided  on  distributing  as  presents  a  few  copies  of  what 

250— (2200) 


306      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

we  cannot  sell ;  and  we  beg  to  offer  you  one  in  acknowledgment 
of  the  pleasure  and  profit  we  have  often  and  long  derived  from 
your  works. 

"  I  am,  sir,  yours  very  respectfully, 

"CURRER   BELL."1 

The  three  sisters  were  naturally  eager  to  see  the  reviews 
of  their  book.  They  had  asked  their  publishers  to  forward 
copies  of  the  principal  literary  magazines  of  the  day,  including 
Colburn's  New  Monthly  Magazine,  Bentley's,  Hood's,  Jerrold's, 
BlackwootTs,  and  Eraser's  Magazine,  as  well  as  the  Edinburgh 
Review,  T ait's  Edinburgh  Magazine,  Chambers'  Edinburgh 
Journal,  The  Dublin  University  Magazine,  The  Daily  News, 
The  Globe,  The  Examiner,  and  the  Britannia  newspaper.  The 
only  magazines  that  reviewed  the  poems  apparently  were 
The  Dublin  University  Magazine,The  Critic,  and  The  Athenaeum. 
The  review  in  The  Critic  pleased  Charlotte  very  much.  The 
following  extract  will  explain  the  reason  :  "  They,  in  whose 
hearts  are  chords  strung  by  nature  to  sympathise  with  the 
beautiful  and  the  true,  will  recognise  in  these  compositions  the 
presence  of  more  genius  than  it  was  supposed  this  utilitarian 
age  had  devoted  to  the  loftier  exercises  of  the  intellect." 
The  Athenaeum  reviewer  singled  out  Ellis  Bell's  poems  as  the 
best :  "  Ellis  possesses  a  fine,  quaint  spirit  and  an  evident 
power  of  wing  that  may  reach  heights  not  here  attempted  "  ; 
and  again  :  "  The  poems  of  Ellis  convey  an  impression  of 
originality  beyond  what  his  contributions  to  these  volumes 
embody." 

The  book  of  poems  had  been  published  about  the  end  of 
May,  1846.  Having  found  a  publisher  in  the  previous  February, 
the  three  sisters  were  encouraged,  and  each  set  to  work  to 
write  a  novel.  To  feel  that  they  were  now  embarked  on  the 
sea  of  literature  inspired  and  sustained  them. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  pictures  them  as  having  forgotten  their  sense 
of  authorship  owing  to  their  anxiety  concerning  their  brother 
Branwell,  which  is  scarcely  correct,  as  they  worked  incessantly 
at  literature,  feeling  that  it  afforded  them  some  relief  from  their 

1  De  Quincey  Memorials,  by  Alexander  H.  Japp. 


BRONTE  CENTENARY  SERVICE  307 

domestic  troubles.  Charlotte  refused  all  invitations  to  Ellen 
Nussey  at  Brookroyd,  Birstall,  and  from  the  end  of  July,  1845, 
when  she  left  Ellen  Nussey  in  Hathersage  to  the  end  of  January, 
1846,  the  two  friends  did  not  meet.  This  was  not  altogether 
Bran  well's  fault,  though,  without  positively  saying  so,  Charlotte 
gave  Ellen  Nussey  the  impression  that  he  was  the  obstacle. 

Referring  to  this  busy  time,  truthful  Anne  Bronte  wrote  : 
"  We  have  done  nothing  to  speak  of,  though  we  have  combined 
to  be  busy." 

The  three  sisters  kept  the  secret  of  their  literary  efforts 
even  from  their  father,  and  worked  conscientiously  from  August 
until  the  following  February.  Although  this  book  of  poems 
proved  such  a  dismal  financial  failure,  not  being  wanted,  as 
Charlotte  tells  us,  it  is  now  of  great  value.  One  of  the  original 
first  editions,  with  the  Aylott  and  Jones  imprint,  was  priced 
at  £34  in  a  recently  issued  catalogue. 

Charlotte  Bronte  proved  to  be  right ;  Emily  Bronte's  poems 
rank  highest.  The  poems  by  Emily  Bronte,  which  Charlotte 
selected,  have  been  issued  in  a  separate  volume  in  1906  and 
1908.  A  complete  set  of  all  Emily  Bronte's  poems  which 
could  be  gathered  together  were  edited  in  1910  by  Mr. 
Clement  Shorter  and  Sir  William  Robertson  Nicoll. 

The  hymns  sung  in  Guiseley  Church  on  Sunday,  29th 
December,  1912,  in  memory  of  the  marriage  at  that  church 
of  Patrick  Bronte  and  Maria  Branwell  on  29th  December, 
1812,  contained  three  by  Anne  Bronte,  and  one  (not  exactly 
a  hymn)  consisting  of  five  verses  from  the  poem,  "  Winter 
Stories,"  by  Charlotte  Bronte.  Unfortunately,  two  of  the 
hymns  by  Anne  Bronte  were  wrongly  attributed  to  Emily — 

"  A  Prayer,"  beginning — 

"  My  God !  O,  let  me  call  Thee  mine  ! 
Weak,  wretched  sinner  though  I  be."  • 

And  "  Confidence  "— 

"  Oppressed  with  sin  and  woe, 
A  burdened  heart  I  bear." 

The  mistake  probably  arose  owing  to  an  error  in  the  Com- 
plete Poems  of  Emily  Bronte,  published  by  Messrs.  Hodder 


308       IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

and  Stoughton  in  1910.  Here  are  to  be  found  the  two  hymns  by 
Anne  Bronte,  under  the  head  of  "  Unpublished  Poems," 
by  Emily  Bronte.  Two  other  poems  in  the  same  collection 
are  also  inaccurately  attributed  to  Emily  Bronte — "  Des- 
pondency "  and  "  In  Memory  of  the  Happy  Day  in  February." 
All  these  poems  had  been  published  as  far  back  as  1850  by 
Charlotte  Bronte  in  her  selection  of  poems  by  her  sister  Anne, 
and  they  may  be  found  in  the  Haworth  Edition  of  The  Professor, 
issued  by  Smith,  Elder  &  Co.,  as  well  as  in  previous  editions  of 
The  Professor,  published  by  the  same  firm. 

Charlotte  and  Anne  Bronte's  poems  have  not  been  re-issued 
separately  in  England,  though  Anne  has  several  included  in 
well-known  hymn  books,  and  in  1882  Charlotte's  were  pub- 
lished in  New  York  by  Messrs.  White  and  Stokes.  Only 
Emily's  poems  are  destined  to  live,  as  Charlotte  predicted, 
the  complete  edition  recently  issued  being  highly  valued  by 
all  Emily  Bronte's  devotees. 

Anne  Bronte's  ability  has  not  so  far  been  fully  recognised. 
Whilst  Charlotte  quickly  made  her  mark,  and  Emily  has  now 
attained  the  place  which  was  rightly  hers  sixty-six  years  ago, 
Anne  has  been  neglected.  She  certainly  is  inferior  to  her  more 
gifted  sisters,  and  has  suffered  by  comparison.  The  inclusion 
of  some  of  her  poems  in  several  collections  of  hymns,  and  the 
selection  of  three  of  her  hymns  for  the  commemoration  service 
of  her  parents'  wedding  at  Guiseley  Church,  would  have 
cheered  this  pious  member  of  the  Bronte  family. 

Answering  a  correspondent  who  wished  to  know  the  meaning 
of  I  Cor.  xv,  22  :  "  For  as  in  Adam  all  die,  even  so  in  Christ 
shall  all  be  made  alive,"  the  Rev.  Professor  Smith,  D.D.,  of 
the  Theological  College,  Londonderry,  in  The  British  Weekly 
for  14th  Nov.,  1912,  says  :  "  You  should  read  Anne  Bronte's 
little  poem,  'A  Word  to  the  "Elect,"'  and  her  '  Wildf  ell 
Hall,'  Chapter  XX." 

Two  verses  read — 


And,  oh  !    there  lives  within  my  heart 
A  hope,  long  nursed  by  me ; 

And  should  its  cheering  ray  depart, 
How  dark  my  soul  would  be ! 


STANZAS  TO  BRANWELL  BRONTE  309 

"That  as  in  Adam  all  have  died, 

In  Christ  shall  all  men  live ; 
And  ever  round  His  throne  abide, 
Eternal  praise  to  give." 

There  is  little  that  is  didactic  about  Emily's  poems,  but 
there  is  power  and  force  like  a  gale  of  wind  ;  there  is  an 
aloneness,  which  is  not  loneliness  but  liberty — 

"  Leave  the  heart  that  now  I  bear, 
And  give  me  liberty." 

It  was  in  the  October  of  1845,  whilst  the  poems  were  being 
revised  and  selected,  that  Emily  Bronte  wrote  The  Philosopher, 
one  of  her  best-known  poems.  It  has  the  same  refrain  which 
Emily  re-echoes  over  and  over  again — a  wish  for  death.  In 
The  Philosopher,  she  writes — 

"  Oh,  let  me  die,  that  power  and  will 

Their  cruel  strife  may  close  ; 
And  conquering  good  and  conquering  ill 
Be  lost  in  one  repose !  " 

Much  has  been  written  to  prove  that  Emily  was  not  more 
partial  to  her  brother  in  his  disgrace  and  weakness  than  the 
other  sisters,  but  the  stanzas  written  by  her  after  his  death 
prove  only  too  well  what  Emily  felt — 

STANZAS  TO (Branwell). 

"  Well,  some  may  hate,  and  some  may  scorn, 
And  some  may  quite  forget  thy  name ; 
But  my  sad  heart  must  ever  mourn 
Thy  ruined  hopes,  thy  blighted  fame ! 
'Twas  thus  I  thought,  an  hour  ago, 
Even  weeping  o'er  that  wretch's  woe ; 
One  word  turned  back  my  gushing  tears, 
And  lit  my  altered  eye  with  sneers. 
Then,  '  Bless  the  friendly  dust,'  I  said, 
'  That  hides  thy  unlamented  head ! 
Vain  as  thou  wert,  and  weak  as  vain, 
The  slave  of  Falsehood,  Pride,  and  Pain — 
My  heart  has  nought  akin  to  thine ; 
Thy  soul  is  powerless  over  mine.' 
But  these  were  thoughts  that  vanished  too  ; 
Unwise,  unholy,  and  untrue : 
Do  I  despise  the  timid  deer, 
Because  his  limbs  are  fleet  with  fear  ? 


310      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Or,  would  I  mock  the  wolf's  death-howl, 

Because  his  form  is  gaunt  and  foul  ? 

Or,  hear  with  joy  the  leveret's  cry, 

Because  it  cannot  bravely  die  ? 

No !    Then  above  his  memory 

Let  Pity's  heart  as  tender  be  ; 

Say,  '  Earth,  lie  lightly  on  that  breast, 

And,  kind  Heaven,  grant  that  spirit  rest ! ' ' 

The  Gondal  Chronicles  will  probably  never  be  satisfactorily 
traced,  but  from  Emily  Bronte's  complete  poems  it  is  possible 
to  select  some  which  will  tell  of  the  mysterious  Gondals  ;  and, 
if  further  proof  is  needed  that  Wuthering  Heights  was  Emily's 
work,  it  can  be  found  foreshadowed  in  several  of  her  recently 
published  poems. 


CHAPTER  XXIII 

THE   FIRST  BRONTE   NOVELS 

1845-1847 

SECRECY  observed  in  writing  the  novels — The  village  postman  nearly 
discovers  the  secret — Wuthering  Heights,  Agnes  Grey  and  The 
Professor — Publishers'  repeated  refusal  of  The  Professor — Why 
The  Professor  was  refused — Wuthering  Heights  and  Agnes  Grey 
accepted — Origin  of  many  of  Charlotte  Bronte's  characters  in  her 
novels — Contrast  between  The  Professor  and  Jane  Eyre. 

NOT  a  word  was  written  to  anyone  concerning  the  work  which 
kept  the  three  sisters  busy  during  the  winter  of  1845-46. 
The  old  father,  now  almost  blind,  was  in  the  habit  of  retiring 
at  an  early  hour  each  evening  ;  the  servants,  too,  old  and 
faithful  Tabby,  and  Martha  Brown — the  sexton's  daughter — 
were  accustomed  to  go  to  bed  soon  after  nine  o'clock.  After 
that  hour  the  sisters  were  alone,  and  it  was  then  that  they 
paced  the  little  sitting-room,  and  compared  notes,  deciding 
what  they  might  attempt  to  publish  and  what  they  should 
reject. 

Whilst  they  were  going  about  their  domestic  duties,  their 
novels  were  simmering,  and  they  kept  odd  bits  of  paper  on 
which  to  chronicle  their  thoughts.  Emily's  favourite  spot 
for  writing  was  in  the  little  front  garden,  sitting  on  a  small 
stool  in  the  shade  of  the  currant  bushes,  or  out  on  the  moors, 
far  away  from  any  habitation,  and  in  company  with  the  birds 
and  the  few  sheep  that  wandered  about  the  moor.  Both  her 
poems  and  her  one  great  novel  are  redolent  of  the  breezy 
heights. 

Both  the  father  and  the  servants  had  a  shrewd  suspicion, 
as  they  admitted  in  after  years,  that  something  was  brewing. 
The  difficulty  must  have  been  to  keep  Branwell  out  of  the 
little  sitting-room,  and,  although  Charlotte  tells  us  that  he 
never  knew  what  his  sisters  had  published,  he  did  know  that 
they  were  writing  with  a  view  to  publication,  if  they  could  get 
their  work  accepted.  She  admits  that,  when  she  failed  to  get 

311 


312      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

a  reply  from  the  publishers  concerning  her  manuscript,  she 
consulted  Branwell,  who  told  her  that  it  was  because  she  had 
not  prepaid  the  return  postage.  Moreover,  the  landlord  of 
the  Black  Bull,  who  was  a  man  to  be  trusted,  said  that  Branwell 
was  eager  to  gather  any  local  traditions  in  order  to  pass  them 
on  to  Charlotte  for  her  book,  so  that  he  must  have  been  in  the 
secret.  It  is  difficult  to  realise  how  the  sisters  managed  to 
keep  the  information  from  him,  when  their  efforts  had  met  with 
success.  Not  only  were  they  in  league  against  admitting 
him  to  a  knowledge  of  their  success,  but  even  the  servants 
helped.  It  was  old  Tabby's  special  duty  to  secure  the  letters 
addressed  to  Currer  Bell,  Esq.,  care  of  the  Rev.  P.  Bronte. 
At  a  later  date,  on  account  of  a  mistake  which  almost  revealed 
the  secret,  the  envelopes  bore  the  inscription,  Miss  Bronte, 
by  Charlotte's  request  to  the  publishers.  The  village  postman, 
who  lived  close  by  the  church  steps  and  within  a  stone's  throw 
of  the  vicarage,  was  greatly  troubled  to  know  who  Currer 
Bell,  Esq.,  was,  for  the  natives  of  Haworth  were  extremely 
inquisitive,  which  partly  accounts  for  the  fact  that  the  Bronte 
sisters  were  not  altogether  popular,  since  "  they  kept  themselves 
too  much  to  themselves,"  as  one  who  knew  them  said.  There 
was  too  much  mystery  associated  with  the  parsonage,  which 
led  to  exaggerated  stories  concerning  the  family.  Some  of 
these  stories  misled  Mrs.  Gaskell  and  prejudiced  her  against 
the  father  and  the  son. 

Old  James  Feather,  the  grandfather  of  the  present  post- 
master, and  the  carrier  of  the  precious  manuscripts  which  were 
tied  up  in  thick,  coarse  paper,  was  determined  to  find  out  who 
Currer  Bell  was,  and,  accosting  Mr.  Bronte  one  day,  he  said  : 
"  You  have  a  gentleman  staying  at  the  parsonage,  called 
Mr.  Currer  Bell."  "You  are  mistaken,"  said  the  Vicar, 
"  there  is  nobody  in  the  whole  of  my  parish  of  that  name." 
The  postman  kept  his  counsel  and  continued  to  deliver  the 
letters  addressed  to  Currer  Bell,  Esq.  Probably  the  postman's 
inquisitiveness  led  Charlotte  afterwards  to  have  her  letters 
addressed  to  her  in  her  own  name. 

The  poems  had  been  despatched  in  manuscript,  and  the 
hopes  of  the  sisters  were  high,  for  now  they  felt  they  were  on 


FIRST  NOVELS  313 

the  right  road  to  success.  They  fixed  the  price  of  the  little 
book  of  poems  at  five  shillings,  and  then  altered  it  to  four 
shillings.  Charlotte  tells  how  each  sister  decided  to  write  a 
novel  after  they  had  compiled  their  poems. 

The  plan  of  the  book  of  poems  had  been  to  publish  three 
sets  of  poems  in  one  book,  and,  although  it  was  quite  unusual, 
the  three  sisters  decided  to  compile  a  book  of  fiction  consisting 
of  three  distinct  stories.  They,  however,  wrote  to  Messrs. 
Aylott  and  Jones  stating  that  the  stories  could  either  be 
published  together  in  one  volume,  or  separately.  The  possi- 
bility of  the  three  books  in  one  volume  not  being  accepted 
together  did  not  at  first  strike  them,  seeing  that  the  poems 
had  not  been  separated.  Both  Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte 
adopted  a  castaway  as  their  hero  or  heroine. 

Mary  Taylor,  in  a  letter  to  Mrs.  Gaskell,  says — 

"  Cowper's  poem,  The  Castaway,  was  known  to  them  all, 
and  they  all  at  times  appreciated,  or  almost  appropriated  it. 
Charlotte  told  me  once  that  Branwell  had  done  so ;  and 
though  his  depression  was  the  result  of  his  faults,  it  was  in 
no  other  respect  different  from  hers." 

Mrs.  Gaskell's  biography  of  Charlotte  Bronte  gives  the 
impression  of  a  very  depressed,  despondent  group  of  women  in 
Haworth  parsonage  in  the  year  1846,  but  with  all  their 
domestic  trials,  Bran  well's  dissipation,  and  the  old  father's 
growing  blindness,  they  kept  up  their  courage  wonderfully. 
They  had  made  up  their  minds  to  succeed  as  writers,  for  there 
was  no  other  way  in  which  they  could  earn  a  livelihood.  To 
quote  Charlotte  in  1850— 

"  Ill-success  failed  to  crush  us  ;  the  mere  effort  to  succeed 
had  given  a  wonderful  zest  to  existence  ;  it  must  be  pursued. 
We  each  set  to  work  on  a  prose  tale  :  Ellis  Bell  produced 
Wuthering  Heights  ;  Acton  Bell,  Agnes  Grey  ;  and  Currer  Bell 
also  wrote  a  narrative  in  one  volume.  These  MSS.  were 
perseveringly  obtruded  upon  various  publishers  for  the  space 
of  a  year  and  a  half  ;  usually,  their  fate  was  an  ignominious 
and  abrupt  dismissal." 

Around  Agnes  Grey  no  mystery  hangs  ;  it  is  a  simple  story 


314      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

of  "  Some  Passages  in  the  Life  of  an  Individual "  which  she 
quaintly  mentions  in  her  little  journal  of  July,  1845,  and  it 
gives  an  unvarnished  account  of  the  hard  time  that  Anne  had 
when  a  governess  with  Mrs.  Ingham  at  Blake  Hall,  Mirfield, 
and  at  the  Rev.  Edmund  Robinson's,  Thorpe  Green,  Little 
Ouseburn,  near  York.  In  a  letter  to  Mr.  W.  S.  Williams, 
Charlotte  says :  "  Agnes  Grey  is  true  and  unexaggerated 
enough."  In  consequence,  no  discussion  has  ever  been  aroused 
except  that  Mrs.  Gaskell  tells  us  that  she  once  asked  if  Anne 
had  had  the  trying  experience  of  killing  the  nest  of  birds, 
which  her  pupil  at  Blake  Hall  had  meant  to  kill  by  inches, 
and  Charlotte  replied  that  only  those  who  have  been  governesses 
have  any  idea  of  what  it  means. 

The  Professor  was  the  novel  that  Charlotte  Bronte  first 
sent  round  to  the  publishers  in  company  with  Agnes  Grey  and 
Wuthering  Heights,  and  then  afterwards  it  travelled  round 
alone.  Agnes  Grey  and  Wuthering  Heights,  strange  to  say, 
were  accepted  by  the  same  publisher,  though  they  were  totally 
different  in  character,  and  it  is  hardly  possible  to  conceive 
of  the  same  publisher  having  an  equal  liking  for  each.  No 
research  has  ever  been  successful  in  tracing  a  letter  to  any 
publisher  written  by  Emily,  and  in  one  of  Charlotte's  letters, 
referring  to  the  two  books,  she  only  mentions  one  sister  as 
having  had  any  communication  with  the  publishers, 
which  seems  to  imply  that  Anne  took  charge  of  Emily's 
correspondence. 

In  a  letter  to  G.  H.  Lewes,  Charlotte  Bronte,  referring  to  her 
first  novel,  The  Professor,  says — 

"  I  determined  to  take  Nature  and  Truth  as  my  sole  guides, 
and  to  follow  in  their  very  footprints  ;  I  restrained  imagination, 
eschewed  romance,  repressed  excitement ;  over-bright  colour- 
ing, too,  I  avoided,  and  sought  to  produce  something  which 
should  be  soft,  grave,  and  true." 

She  also  mentions  that  six  publishers  refused  it,  and  all 
agreed  that  it  was  deficient  in  "  startling  incident "  and 
"  thrilling  excitement,"  and  that  it  would  never  be  acceptable 
to  the  circulating  libraries. 


MSS.   OF  THE   PROFESSOR  315 

Mrs.  Gaskell  wished  to  see  this  nine- times  refused  novel, 
when  she  was  collecting  the  material  for  the  biography,  and 
Mr.  Nicholls  said  that  she  was  anxious  to  edit  it,  and  that 
his  refusal  caused  her  to  be  prejudiced  against  him.  There 
is  no  doubt  that  Mrs.  Gaskell  was  anxious  to  see  the  manuscript 
of  The  Professor  in  order  to  find  the  reason  for  its  repeated 
refusal.  Moreover,  she  was  puzzled  at  Charlotte  Bronte's 
experience  in  Brussels,  and  she  probably  hoped  to  find  from 
the  novel  some  key  to  her  life  during  her  first  year  at  the  Heger 
pensionnat. 

Though  Charlotte  Bronte  probably  felt  that  Madame  Heger 
had  judged  her  harshly,  she  could  not  restrain  the  feeling  of 
gratitude  towards  M.  Heger,  and  in  The  Professor  she  did 
exactly  what  Anne  had  done  when  writing  "  Some  Passages 
in  the  Life  of  an  Individual,"  the  individual  being  herself. 
So  Charlotte  followed  the  same  plan,  using  the  pseudonym  of 
William  Crimsworth.  Mr.  Watts-Dunton  says  in  his  intro- 
duction to  The  Professor  and  the  Bronte  Poems  in  The  World's 
Classics,  that  the  fact  that  the  hero  of  the  story  was  a  man, 
and  that  the  story  read  quite  in  the  manner  of  an  autobio- 
graphical document,  although  the  manuscript  was  in  a  woman's 
handwriting,  puzzled  Mr.  Williams,  the  reader  for  Smith, 
Elder  &  Co.  ;  he  could  not  make  out  whether  Currer  Bell  was 
a  man  or  a  woman. 

William  Crimsworth,  like  Jane  Eyre  and  Heathclifi,  was 
an  outcast,  and  it  pleased  Charlotte  Bronte  to  look  upon  herself 
in  the  same  category,  when  she  wrote  her  first  Brussels  novel. 
The  opening  chapter  is  disappointing,  although,  according  to 
one  of  her  letters,  she  had  re- written  it.  William  Crimsworth, 
the  counting-house  clerk  in  a  Yorkshire  manufactory,  was  not 
the  type  of  character  Charlotte  Bronte  could  well  understand. 
None  of  her  relatives  had  any  experience  of  Yorkshire  factory 
life,  though  she  may  have  known  something  of  the  Haworth 
operatives  ;  her  only  direct  knowledge  of  the  woollen  mills 
was  gained  from  the  Taylors  of  Gomersal,  who  were 
manufacturers. 

They  would  probably  talk  of  the  doings  of  their  employees 
when  Charlotte  Bronte  stayed  with  them,  and  the  character 


316       IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTfiS 

may  have  been  suggested  by  Mr.  Taylor  and  his  sons,  for  Yorke- 
Hunsden  is  said  to  have  been  founded  on  Mary  Taylor's 
father,  who  was  somewhat  of  a  "  queer  tyke."  Whilst  he 
was  a  typical  Yorkshireman,  he  had  acquired  a  certain  amount 
of  "  polish  "  by  his  travels  on  the  continent.  He  could  speak 
broad  Yorkshire,  or  Parisian  French  equally  well ;  and  it 
was  his  knowledge  of  Brussels,  Paris,  Rome  and  other  Euro- 
pean capitals,  that  made  Charlotte  Bronte  anxious  to  see  those 
places.  Had  she  never  known  the  Taylors,  it  is  possible  that 
she  would  never  have  visited  Brussels.  Since  Mary  and 
Martha  Taylor  went  to  school  at  Brussels,  Charlotte  Bronte 
was  extremely  anxious  to  go  too.  In  her  novel,  she  adopts 
with  much  skill  the  character  of  an  English  professor  in  the 
Belgian  school.  Scenes  are  represented  which  actually 
occurred  in  the  course  of  her  own  life  in  the  Pensionnat,  but 
from  the  first  the  reader  has  an  aversion  for  Mdlle  Zoraide 
Reuter,  and  in  the  story  in  which  Charlotte  Bronte  is  restrained, 
stiff,  and  in  some  places  awkward,  she  never  hesitates  to  draw 
the  Belgian  schoolmistress  with  a  poisoned  pen. 

Some  parts  of  the  story  are  as  good  as,  if  not  better  than, 
anything  Charlotte  Bronte  wrote.  Frances  Evans-Henri, 
the  little  lace-mender,  is  a  beautifully  drawn  character,  and  it, 
no  doubt,  owes  much  to  Emily  Bronte,  who  was  the  quiet, 
clever,  industrious  pupil  at  the  pensionnat,  when  Charlotte 
was  also  there. 

Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte  had  meant  to  have  a  school, 
and  just  as  Anne's  story  of  Agnes  Grey  drifts  into  school- 
keeping,  which  had  been  the  dream  of  the  sisters  so  long,  so 
William  Crimsworth  and  the  little  lace-mender  drift  into  a 
school ;  Lucy  Snowe  also  concludes  with  a  little  private  school, 
and  even  the  second  Cathy  in  Withering  Heights  adopts  the 
role  of  teacher  and  instructs  Hareton  Earnshaw. 

Charlotte  Bronte  might  well  say  that  something  like  des- 
pair seized  her  when  she  found  that  Agnes  Grey  and  Wuthering 
Heights  were  accepted,  whilst  her  own  ambitious  novel^could 
not  find  a  home  anywhere.  Miss  Sinclair  says  that  the  critics 
forget  that  The  Professor  was  the  first  novel  written  by 
Charlotte  Bronte  after  her  hurried  flight  from  Brussels,  and  if 


THE  PROFESSOR  317 

she  had  been  "  sorely  wounded  "  in  her  affections  she  would 
surely  have  shown  it  in  her  first  novel.  It  must  be  remembered 
that  Charlotte  Bronte  was  not  only  "  sorely  wounded,"  but 
she  was  ill  for  the  two  years  after  leaving  Brussels,  and  her 
writing  was  mostly  sentimental  poetry.  The  poem  entitled 
"  Frances  "  tells  her  heart  secret.  It  was  not  until  she  had 
had  a  holiday  at  Hathersage  that  she  regained  her  health. 

It  is  foolish  to  say  that  The  Professor  was  written  with  a 
special  motive,  for  as  Charlotte  Bronte  had  decided  to  write 
a  novel,  her  thoughts  naturally  turned  to  Brussels,  and  as 
Madame  Heger  could  not  be  left  out,  the  suppression  of  the 
correspondence  between  her  husband  and  his  former  pupil 
made  it  well  nigh  impossible  for  Charlotte  to  write  of  her 
kindlyt  That  Madame  Heger  was  treated  still  worse  in 
Villette  is  another  story,  which  will  be  discussed  later. 

The  Professor  has  always  been  considered  Charlotte  Bronte's 
first  novel,  because  it  was  first  submitted  to  the  publishers, 
but  she  was  very  emphatic  in  her  preface  to  state  that  "  a  first 
attempt  it  was  not."  The  original  title  was  The  Master,  which 
could  only  refer  to  her  "  master  in  literature,"  M.  Heger,  but 
M.  Pelet  is  a  very  poor  character  compared  with  Paul  Emanuel. 

Though  there  is  much  depicted  in  The  Professor  of  the  actual 
intercourse  between  M.  Heger  and  Charlotte  Bronte,  and 
undoubtedly  of  M.  Heger  and  Emily  Bronte,  yet  it  is  difficult 
to  think  of  the  untamed  Emily  Bronte,  according  to  Mrs. 
GaskelPs  account,  as  the  quiet  Frances  of  The  Professor,  and 
there  is  more  of  Charlotte  Bronte  in  William  Crimsworth  than 
in  any  other  character. 

-  The  principal  male  characters  to  be  found  in  Charlotte 
Bronte's  great  novels  were  those  drawn  from  M.  Heger — M. 
Pelet,  Rochester,  Robert  Moore,  Louis  Moore  and  Paul 
Emanuel ;  whilst  the  women  were  either  drawn  from  her 
own  life  as  Jane  Eyre,  Caroline  Helstone  and  Lucy  Snowe,  or 
from  that  of  Emily  as  Shirley  Keeldar  and  Frances.  Why 
Jane  Eyre  should  have  been  such  a  contrast  to  the  mildness 
of  The  Professor,  which  reads  like  a  French  devoir,  is  given  in 
Charlotte  Bronte*'s  own  explanation — 

"A  first  attempt  it  certainly  was  not,  as  the  pen  which 


318      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

wrote  it  had  been  previously  worn  a  good  deal  in  a  practice  of 
some  years.  I  had  not  indeed  published  anything  before  I 
commenced  The  Professor,  but  in  many  a  crude  effort,  destroyed 
almost  as  soon  as  composed,  I  had  got  over  any  such  taste 
as  I  might  once  have  had  for  ornamented  and  redundant 
compositions,  and  come  to  prefer  what  was  plain  and  homely. 
At  the  same  time  I  had  adopted  a  set  of  principles  on  the 
subject  of  incident,  &c.,  such  as  would  be  generally  approved 
in  theory,  but  the  result  of  which,  when  carried  out  into  practice, 
often  procures  for  an  author  more  surprise  than  pleasure. 

k<  I  said  to  myself  that  my  hero  should  work  his  way  through 
life  as  I  had  seen  real  living  men  work  theirs — that  he  should 
never  get  a  shilling  he  had  not  earned — that  no  sudden  turns 
should  lift  him  in  a  moment  to  wealth  and  high  station  ;  that 
whatever  small  competency  he  might  gain  should  be  won  by 
the  sweat  of  his  brow  ;  that,  before  he  could  find  so  much  as 
an  arbour  to  sit  down  in,  he  should  master  at  least  half  the 
ascent  of  *  the  Hill  of  Difficulty  ' ;  that  he  should  not  even 
marry  a  beautiful  girl  or  a  lady  of  rank.  As  Adam's  son,  he 
should  share  Adam's  doom,  and  drain  throughout  life  a  mixed 
and  moderate  cup  of  enjoyment." 

The  novel  was  planned  on  stated  lines,  and  it  i£  not  to  be 
wondered  at  that  it  is  so  unlike  the  great  masterpieces,  Jane 
Eyre  and  Villette,  which  were  written  at  white  heat.  The 
Professor  and  Shirley  were  made,  whilst  Jane  Eyre  and  Villette 
were  born.  The  novelist's  determination  to  keep  within  certain 
rules  in  the  writing  of  The  Professor  shows  her  desire  to  make 
a  story,  and  to  avoid  revealing  her  heart's  secret. 

The  absorbing  work  of  preparing  the  book  found  occupation 
for  Charlotte  at  a  time  when,  to  use  her  own  words,  "  she 
needed  a  stake  in  life,"  and  the  publishing  venture  directed 
her  thoughts  away  from  M.  Heger  who  had  haunted  her  night 
and  day  for  nearly  two  years. 

The  Professor  has  always  been  taken  as  the  forerunner  of 
Villette,  but  in  direct  opposition  to  Villette  Charlotte  tried  to 
write  from  without  rather  than  within,  just  as  later  she  tried 
the  same  plan  in  Shirley. 


CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  AND  MADAME  HEGER  319 

William  Crimsworth  is  Charlotte  Bronte  masquerading  as 
M.  Heger,  and  Frances  Evans-Henri,  the  little  lace-mender, 
is  Emily  Jane  Bronte,  who  was  a  pupil,  and  also  a  teacher  of 
music. 

During  the  first  year  at  Brussels,  Emily  attracted  more 
attention  from  M.  and  Madame  Heger  than  Charlotte,  and  she 
showed  more  aptitude  for  a  literary  career  than  her  sister. 
If  "  Frances  Evans  Henri  "  is  studied  she  answers  to  Emily 
Bronte. 

Evidently  Madame  Heger  concluded  that  Emily  meant  to 
earn  her  living  by  literature,  and  that  Charlotte  was  keen  to 
become  a  teacher.  In  Chapter  XVIII  of  The  Professor, 
Charlotte  gives  Mdlle  Renter's  views  on  literature  as  a  career 
for  a  woman.  "  It  appears  to  me  that  ambition,  literary 
ambition  especially,  is  not  a  feeling  to  be  cherished  in  the 
mind  of  a  woman."  When  we  remember  that  The  Pro- 
fessor was  written  just  after  Charlotte's  disappointment  in 
not  receiving  an  answer  from  her  letters  to  M.  Heger,  and  that 
she  had  the  impression  that  Madame  Heger  was  responsible, 
it  is  easy  to  see  that  she  could  not  write  kindly  of  Madame 
Heger  ;  and  yet  in  The  Professor  she  had  the  curb  on  the  rein, 
and  was  very  careful  how  she  wrote  of  M.  Pelet,  who  does 
not  fit  M.  Heger  as  Charlotte  knew  him,  but  she  evidently 
tried  to  picture  his  life  before  she  went  to  Brussels,  and  before 
he  married  the  schoolmistress,  except  that  she  reverses  the 
situation  and  makes  M.  Pelet  the  head  of  the  school  and 
Mdlle  Zoraide  Reuter  one  of  his  teachers. 

Charlotte  has  tried  to  hide  her  own  identity  all  the  way 
through  the  novel,  but  she  fails,  when  she  writes  :  "  God  knows 
I  am  not  by  nature  vindictive,"  and  again,  "  Not  that  I  nursed 
vengeance — no  ;  but  the  sense  of  insult  and  treachery  lived 
in  me  like  a  kindling,  though  as  yet  smothered  coal "  which 
explains  her  feeling  at  the  time.  It  is  this  trying  to  write 
from  without,  and  throw  the  actual  scenes  back,  that  proved 
Charlotte's  undoing  in  The  Professor  ;  it  is  not  real  enough,  and 
she  never  excelled  except  in  writing  autobiographicaUy.  It 
is  Emily  she  tries  to  describe,  and  it  is  her  experience  during 
the  Brussels  period  that  Charlotte  tries  to  give. 


320      IN   THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

It  is  clearly  of  Emily  she  is  thinking  when  she  writes  of  the 
conversation  between  Hunsden  and  Frances — 

"  If  Abdiel  the  Faithful  himself  "  (she  was  thinking  of  Milton) 
"  were  suddenly  stripped  of  the  faculty  of  association,  I  think 
he  would  soon  rush  forth  from  '  the  ever-during  gates,'  leave 
heaven,  and  seek  what  he  had  lost  in  hell.  Yes,  in  the  very 
hell  from  which  he  turned  '  with  retorted  scorn.' 

"  Frances'  tone  in  saying  this  was  as  marked  as  her  language, 
and  it  was  when  the  word  '  hell '  twanged  off  from  her  lips,  with 
a  somewhat  startling  emphasis,  that  Hunsden  deigned  to  bestow 
one  slight  glance  of  admiration.  He  liked  something  strong, 
whether  in  man  or  woman.  ...  He  had  never  before  heard 
a  lady  say  '  hell '  with  that  uncompromising  sort  of  accent. 
.  .  .  The  display  of  eccentric  vigour  never  gave  her  pleasure, 
and  it  only  sounded  in  her  voice  or  flashed  in  her  countenance 
when  extraordinary  circumstances — and  those  generally  pain- 
ful— forced  it  out  of  the  depths,  where  it  burned  latent.  To 
me,  once  or  twice,  she  had,  in  intimate  conversation,  uttered 
venturous  thoughts  in  nervous  language  ;  but  when  the  hour 
of  such  manifestation  was  past,  I  could  not  recall  it ;  it  came 
of  itself  and  of  itself  departed." 

This  fits  the  Emily  Bronte  of  Wuthering  Heights,  for  whom 
Charlotte  found  it  out  of  her  power  to  apologise  for  the  using 
of  "  those  expletives  with  which  profane  and  violent  persons 
are  wont  to  garnish  their  discourse." 

After  the  repeated  rejection  of  The  Professor  Charlotte 
Bronte  set  to  work  on  Jane  Eyre,  and  in  the  summer  of  1847 
it  was  accepted,  being  published  before  either  Wuthering 
Heights  or  Agnes  Grey.  On  that  remarkable  novel  her  fame 
was  assured.  Recently,  a  first  edition  of  Jane  Eyre  was  sold 
for  £27.  It  is  probable  that  there  are  more  anecdotes  associated 
with  the  first  reading  of  this  novel  than  gather  around  any 
other,  which  testifies  to  its  absorbing  interest  and  to  the  force 
with  which  it  carries  its  readers  onward. 


CHAPTER  XXIV 

WUTHERING   HEIGHTS 

AUTHORSHIP  of  the  novel — Various  claims  examined — Charlotte 
Bronte's  testimony — Late  recognition  of  Emily  Bronte's  genius — 
Swinburne's  opinion  of  the  novel — M.  Heger's  influence  on  Emily 
Bronte — Poem  by  Emily  Bronte — Charlotte's  discovery  of  some 
of  Emily's  poems — Emily's  position  at  home — Her  workshop  and 
material. 

AMONG  all  the  novels  of  the  nineteenth  century,  none  has 
awakened  greater  curiosity  than  Wuthering  Heights.  Even 
to-day,  sixty-six  years  after  it  was  written,  the  authorship  is 
questioned.  Four  different  members  of  the  Bronte  family — 
Charlotte,  Emily,  Branwell  and  Anne — have  each  been  credited 
with  the  writing  of  it,  and  supposed  proofs  have  been 
accumulated,  the  effect  of  which  would  be  to  deny  the  author- 
ship to  Emily  Bronte,  who  undoubtedly  wrote  the  novel 
as  it  now  stands  under  the  nom  de  guerre  of  Ellis  Bell. 

Not  only  has  the  authorship  been  a  source  of  mystery,  as 
well  as  the  pseudonym  of  the  writer,  but  the  places  mentioned 
in  the  story  have  never  yet  been  traced  to  any  satisfactory 
originals,  and  the  supporters  of  different  theories  have  been 
divided  into  opposite  camps,  but,  when  it  is  remembered  that 
the  souls  that  create  permanent  literature  know  no  geographical 
boundaries,  it  is  not  to  be  wondered  at.  Parson  Grimshaw's 
house,  Sowdens,  on  the  moors,  not  far  from  the  Haworth 
Vicarage  with  the  initials  H.  E.,  1659,  carved  on,  which  may 
or  may  not  stand  for  the  original  "  Hareton  Earnshaw,  1500," 
though  "  the  crumbling  griffins  and  shameless  little  boys  " 
are  not  there  :  Law  Hill,  Southowram  :  the  Withens,  a  small 
lonely  farmstead  on  the  Haworth  Moors,  some  three  or  four 
miles  from  the  village,  have  all  been  claimed  as  the  original 
of  Wuthering  Heights,  which  is,  however,  a  composite  picture, 
owing  something  to  the  three  places  mentioned.  The  name 
Heathcliff  is  significant,  for  he  partakes  of  "  the  heath  with  its 
blooming  bells  and  balmy  fragrance,  which  grows  faithfully 
close  to  the  giant's  foot  "  to  quote  Charlotte  Bronte,  and  of 

321 

21— (2300) 


322      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

the  cliff  or  crag,  which  "  stands  colossal,  dark,  and  frowning, 
half  statue,  half  rock." 

Emily  meditated  on  actual  people,  just  as  Charlotte  did  for 
her  characters,  and  it  is  because  Emily  used  the  same  original, 
though  under  totally  different  aspects,  for  her  great  novel,  as 
Charlotte  did  for  her  three  stories,  each  being  a  variation  of 
the  same  person,  that  confusion  has  arisen  regarding  the  author- 
ship of  Wuthering  Heights.  Also  Emily  used  Charlotte's 
passionate  dreams  and  deliriums  of  the  period  when  she  was 
breaking  her  heart  for  news  from  M.  Heger,  which  material 
Charlotte  afterwards  used  in  Jane  Eyre,  Shirley  and  Villette. 

"  Joseph,"  the  Yorkshire  servant,  is  a  masterpiece,  dour 
and  dogged,  and  of  a  type  fast  passing  away ;  he  was  what 
Charlotte  called  "  a  ranting  Methodist."  Emily  eclipsed  that 
in  her  description.  "  He  was,  and  is  yet  most  likely,  the 
wearisomest,  self-righteous  pharisee  that  ever  ransacked 
a  Bible  to  rake  the  promises  to  himself  and  fling  the  curses 
on  his  neighbours."  Joseph  owed  something  to  Old  Tabby, 
who  ruled  the  parsonage,  but  was  jealous  of  the  honour  of  the 
Brontes.  The  Yorkshire  dialect  which  Joseph  uses  in  the 
first  edition  is  correct,  and  Charlotte  did  not  improve  matters 
by  altering  it  in  a  later  edition,  though  perhaps  she  made  it 
more  intelligible  to  all  but  Yorkshire  folk.  Nelly  Dean  is  far 
too  accomplished  a  story-teller  to  be  a  Yorkshire  servant  at 
the  latter  end  of  the  eighteenth  century,  but  it  was  a  clever 
device  for  Emily  Bronte  to  put  the  story  in  the  mouth  of 
one  of  the  servants,  though  she  herself  is  the  real  story-teller, 
for  she  was  the  actual  nurse  to  the  original  of  Cathy ;  parts 
of  the  narrative  as  told  by  Nelly  cannot  be  excelled  for  original 
power  in  any  prose  of  the  nineteenth  century.  The  novel 
stands  alone  ;  it  cannot  be  put  into  any  category,  for  it  is 
without  kith  or  kindred  ;  it  belongs  to  no  school,  and  is 
supremely  indifferent  to  time,  but  it  is  the  soul-fact  that 
matters  in  this  great  novel,  as  also  in  Charlotte's  stories. 

The  authorship  was  first  falsely  claimed  for  Branwell  Bronte, 
and,  in  connection  with  this,  it  is  interesting  to  note  that  Mr. 
Francis  A.  Leyland  and  Mr .  Francis  H.  Grundy,  who  both  knew 


AUTHORSHIP   OF  THE   NOVEL  323 

Branwell  Bronte,  thought  they  could  trace  his  pen  in  some 
of  the  phrases,  and,  indeed,  they  stated  that  Branwell  had 
read  parts  of  the  story  to  them.  This  may  have  been  quite 
possible,  for  it  is  very  probable  that  parts  of  an  earlier  version 
were  to  be  found  in  the  parsonage,  and  he  may  have  taken 
them  and  read  them  to  his  friends.  He  may,  unwittingly, 
have  contributed  something  to  the  story  by  his  wild  tales 
of  the  lonely  homesteads  on  the  moors  around  Haworth. 
Anyone  who  has  read  any  of  his  poetry,  or  unpublished 
prose,  needs  little  persuasion  to  convince  himself,  beyond 
a  shadow  of  doubt,  that  Branwell  could  not  possibly  have 
written  Wuthering  Heights.  Of  late  years  Charlotte  Bronte 
has  been  claimed  as  the  author,  solely  because  some  of  the 
scenes  and  characters  have  something  in  common  with  Jane 
Eyre,  but  it  is  ample  tribute  to  the  genius  of  Emily  Bronte 
that  it  has  taken  more  than  sixty  years  before  anyone  has 
noted  the  marked  resemblance  between  some  of  the  scenes 
in  both  novels  to  suggest  a  common  authorship,  though 
Sydney  Dobell  mentioned  a  certain  similarity  as  far  back  as 
1848.  When  Charlotte  Bronte  denied  the  authorship,  he  accepted 
her  statement,  but  wished  to  discuss  the  novel  with  her  later. 

Miss  Rigby,  in  the  Quarterly  Review,  had  also  noted  the  like- 
ness between  Jane  and  Rochester  on  the  one  hand,  and  Cathy 
and  Heathcliff  on  the  other,  and  they  certainly  are  akin. 

The  force  and  passion  of  Wuthering  Heights  are  so  immeasur- 
ably above  what  is  to  be  found  in  Charlotte  Bronte's  novels 
that  it  cannot  be  said  for  a  moment  to  come  from  the  same 
pen.  Whilst  Charlotte's  novels  breathe  the  spirit  of  revolt, 
Emily's  novel  passionately  makes  for  freedom  and  liberty. 
The  great  poetic  and  passionate  scenes  are  elemental  and 
easily  seen  by  those  who  understand,  but  place  and  time 
are  of  no  moment. 

Instead  of  claiming  that  Charlotte  Bronte  wrote  Wuthering 
Heights,  it  would  probably  be  nearer  the  truth  to  say  that 
Emily  assisted  Charlotte  to  write  Jane  Eyre,  for,  after  Emily's 
death,  Charlotte  refers  to  the  terrible  time  she  went  through 
when  writing  Villette,  because  she  had  no  one  with  whom  she 
could  discuss  the  manuscript  as  was  the  case  with  Jane  Eyre  and 


324      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS   OF  THE   BRONTES 

two-thirds  of  Shirley.  It  is  certain  her  father  and  Anne 
could  not  help,  so  it  must  have  been  Emily. 

Seeing  that  Wuthering  Heights  and  Agnes  Grey  were  both 
accepted  at  the  same  time,  and  that  The  Professor  was  rejected 
over  and  over  again,  Charlotte  must  have  copied  the  spirit  of 
Emily's  novel,  when  writing  Jane  Eyre,  for  Agnes  Grey  was 
evidently  not  good  enough  for  a  model.  Emily  Bronte  wrote 
without  any  thought  of  the  critic  ;  Charlotte  wrote  The  Professor 
with  the  critic  at  her  elbow. 

To  Sydney  Dobell  belongs  the  honour  of  first  directing 
attention  to  the  real  genius  of  the  work  of  Emily  Bronte, 
but,  as  Wuthering  Heights  was  published  three  months  after 
Jane  Eyre  (although  it  had  been  accepted  three  months  before), 
Mr.  Dobell  made  the  mistake  of  thinking  that  Wuthering 
Heights  was  an  earlier  attempt  at  writing  a  novel  by  the  author 
of  Jane  Eyre,  and  that,  as  Jane  Eyre  had  been  so  readily 
accepted,  Wuthering  Heights  was  offered  under  the  shadow 
of  the  great  success.  Charlotte  Bronte  denied  this,  whilst 
warmly  thanking  Mr.  Dobell  for  his  just  and  well-merited 
critique.  Emily  Bronte,  the  author  of  the  novel,  never  heard 
one  word  of  commendation,  for  she  was  dead  before  the  world 
recognised  her  great  ability  either  as  a  poet  or  a  novelist. 

For  a  good  reason  known  to  Charlotte,  Emily  Bronte  never, 
by  word  or  pen,  acknowledged  the  authorship  ;  it  was  sent 
out  as  the  work  of  Ellis  Bell,  and  only  as  such  was  she 
determined  that  it  should  be  known.  Emily  never  approved 
of  the  sisters  disclosing  their  real  names. 

When  Mr.  Williams,  of  Messrs.  Smith,  Elder  &  Co.,  suggested 
that  Emily  Bronte  should  accept  an  invitation  to  London, 
Charlotte  hastened  to  tell  him  that  it  would  be  quite  useless 
to  ask  her,  as  she  was  absolutely  certain  that  Emily  would  not 
be  interviewed,  and  when  he  called  Charlotte's  attention 
to  the  reviews — notably  that  of  the  Athenaeum — which  showed 
how  puzzled  the  reviewers  were  concerning  the  three  Brontes, 
wondering  if  they  were  three  brothers  or  three  sisters,  or  one 
person  writing  under  three  different  names,  Charlotte  only 
laughed,  and  remarked  that  they  preferred  to  be  known  as 
authors,  whether  men  or  women  was  immaterial. 


MR.  WILLIAMS   AND   EMILY   BRONTE         325 

However,  Mr.  Williams  seems  to  have  got  the  impression 
that  either  there  was  no  such  person  as  the  one  who  wrote 
under  the  nom  de  guerre  of  Ellis  Bell,  or  else  that  Charlotte 
had  some  share  in  the  authorship,  for  she  had  written  to  say 
that  she  ought  not  to  have  admitted,  at  the  time  when  she 
and  Anne  paid  their  hurried  visit  to  London  in  July,  1848, 
that  there  were  three  sisters.  She  explained  that  she  inad- 
vertently mentioned  it,  and  she  requested  that  Mr.  Williams 
should  never  write  of  Emily  Bronte,  but  only  of  Ellis  Bell, 
and  that  he  was  not  under  any  circumstances  to  use  the  word 
sisters  in  his  correspondence  with  her,  but  to  speak  of  one 
sister  only.  It  is  also  strange  that  no  correspondence  has 
ever  been  revealed  between  Emily  Bronte  and  any  publisher. 
Charlotte  appears  to  have  acted  as  editor  and  correspondent 
for  the  three  novels,  and,  after  Wuthering  Heights  and  Agnes 
Grey  were  accepted,  Anne  attended  to  the  publisher's 
correspondence. 

Then,  again,  Charlotte  wrote  to  Mr.  Williams  saying  that  she 
had  no  real  claim  to  be  known  as  the  author  of  Wuthering 
Heights  and  Agnes  Grey,  though  she  should  not  be  ashamed 
to  be  known  as  such,  but  that,  if  she  did  claim  the  novels  as 
hers,  she  would  deprive  the  true  authors  of  their  just  meed.1 
The  question  arises,  what  share  had  Charlotte  in  the  novel  ? 
Did  Emily  use  certain  material  written  by  Charlotte  first  and 
rewrite  it  in  her  own  way,  or  did  Charlotte  act  as  editor  and 
revise  the  manuscript  before  it  was  sent  out  ?  There  is  no 
doubt  that  Charlotte  had  some  share  in  it,  but  not  in  the 
writing  of  it  as  it  now  stands. 

With  regard  to  the  claim  made  on  behalf  of  Anne  Bronte, 
that  was  advanced  by  the  publishers  in  America,  when  her 
Tenant  of  Wild  fell  Hall  was  advertised  as  being  by  Acton  Bell, 
the  author  of  Wuthering  Heights,  the  English  publishers, 
Messrs.  Newby,  were  to  blame  for  giving  the  impression  that 
the  writer  of  Jane  Eyre  was  also  the  author  of  Wildfell  Hall. 
One  reviewer  turned  the  tables  on  Charlotte  and  criticised 
Jane  Eyre  as  being  by  the  author  of  Wuthering  Heights.  The 
three  sisters  worked  together  and  evidently  helped  one  another  ; 

1  The  Brontes  :   Life  and  Letters,  by  Clement  K.  Shorter. 


326      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Emily  was  the  greatest  genius,  but  Charlotte  knew  more  of 
the  world,  and  she  was  the  most  prolific  writer,  judging  by  the 
number  of  manuscripts  left  by  her. 

All  this  mystery  has  been  increased  by  the  fact  that  no  MS. 
of  Wuthering  Heights  has  ever  been  found,  either  in  the  hand- 
writing of  Emily  or  her  sisters,  and  the  theory  is  often  advanced 
that  Charlotte  destroyed  it  after  Emily's  death.  In  addition, 
no  statement  has  been  left  by  Emily  Bronte  to  testify  to  the 
fact  that  she  and  she  only  wrote  Wuthering  Heights.  Charlotte 
Bronte  was  certainly  indignant  that  she  should  be  credited 
with  the  authorship,  and  when  the  third  edition  of  Jane  Eyre 
was  issued  she  added  a  modestly -worded  disclaimer. 

"  I  avail  myself  of  the  opportunity  which  a  third  edition  of 
Jane  Eyre  affords  me,  of  again  addressing  a  word  to  the  Public, 
to  explain  that  my  claim  to  the  title  of  novelist  rests  on  this 
one  work  alone.  If,  therefore,  the  authorship  of  other  works  of 
fiction  has  been  attributed  to  me,  an  honour  is  awarded  where  it 
is  not  merited  ;  and  consequently,  denied  where  it  is  justly  due. 

"  This  explanation  will  serve  to  rectify  mistakes  which 
may  already  have  been  made,  and  to  prevent  future  errors.'* 

But  this  did  not  satisfy  some  of  the  critics.  Therefore, 
in  1850,  Mr.  George  Smith  asked  Charlotte  Bronte  to  write  a 
statement,  settling  the  question  of  the  authorship  of  the 
Bronte  novels  once  for  all. 

Charlotte  Bronte's  denial  of  the  authorship  of  Wuthering 
Heights  must  stand  for  all  time  as  the  literal  truth  concerning 
the  question.  Of  course,  there  is  her  statement  that  she  had 
no  real  claim  to  it,  and  what  she  means  by  that  is  easily  seen, 
for  the  two  novels,  though  having  something  in  common,  are 
so  different  in  style  and  wording,  that  it  would  be  difficult  to 
prove  that  the  same  pen  could  have  written  both.  Charlotte, 
proud  of  her  French  and  of  her  knowledge  of  books,  could 
scarcely  have  avoided  betraying  her  inclination  when  writing 
the  novel. 

Emily  evidently  had  her  own  ideas  of  writing  a  prose  story 
of  an  outcast,  in  her  own  way.  This  would  not  be  difficult, 
for  she  had  already  composed  several  poems  about  a  nameless 


DENIAL  OF  THE  AUTHORSHIP  327 

outcast  of  the  moors,  and  it  is  noticeable  that  she  had  an  ideal 
lover,  judging  by  her  earlier  poems. 

When  writing  her  devoirs  at  Brussels,  she  would  change  not 
only  the  style  of  the  composition  read  to  her,  but  also  the 
subject,  and  characteristically  she  decided  to  write  a  novel 
quite  removed  from  her  sisters,  both  in  style,  subject  and  time, 
for  she  ante-dates  her  story  to  the  latter  part  of  the  eighteenth 
century  ;  but  she  keeps  to  the  family  model  of  an  outcast,  and 
places  him  on  the  Yorkshire  Moors,  which  was  her  little  world 
in  which  she  could  revel  to  her  heart's  content.  Compared 
with  Charlotte's  boast,  that  she  would  make  her  plain  little 
heroine,  Jane  Eyre,  as  attractive  as  her  sister's  more  beautiful 
heroines,  the  hero  Heathcliff  is  a  suburb  masterpiece.  Could 
there  be  any  hero  so  debased  as  the  wretched  little  gutter  child 
that  old  Earnshaw  unrolled  from  his  cloak  "  as  black  as  if  he 
came  from  the  devil "  ?  Yet  all  through  the  story  he  holds 
the  reader  spell-bound  without  any  physical  attractions,  but 
with  a  passionate  love  that  excels  that  of  any  other  hero  in 
fiction.  Emily  Bronte's  fame  as  the  greatest  novelist  of 
the  nineteenth  century  rests  on  this  one  great  character  alone. 

Both  Charlotte  and  Branwell  Bronte  seem  to  have  some  sort 
of  connection  with  the  plot,  but  not  with  the  actual  writing 
of  the  story.  In  the  first  chapter,  Lockwood  is  summing  up 
Heathcliff's  character.  "  He'll  love  and  hate  equally  under 
cover,  and  esteem  it  a  species  of  impertinence  to  be  loved  or 
hated  again.  No,  I'm  running  on  too  fast ;  I  bestow  my 
own  attributes  over  liberally  on  him."  This  is  undoubtedly 
Emily  Bronte's  own  estimate  of  herself ;  she  dwelt  apart 
and  was  reserved  and  silent.  Then  Lockwood,  who  is  the 
narrator,  goes  on  to  say,  "  While  enjoying  a  month  of  fine 
weather  at  the  sea-coast,  I  was  thrown  into  the  company  of  a 
most  fascinating  creature  :  a  real  goddess  in  my  eyes,  as  long 
as  she  took  no  notice  of  me.  I  '  never  told  my  love  '  vocally  ; 
still,  if  looks  have  language,  the  merest  idiot  might  have 
guessed  I  was  over  head  and  ears  ;  she  understood  me  at  last, 
and  looked  a  return — the  sweetest  of  all  imaginable  looks. 
And  what  did  I  do  ?  I  confess  it  with  shame — shrunk  icily 
into  myself,  like  a  snail ;  at  every  glance  retired  colder  and 


328      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

farther  ;  till  finally  the  poor  innocent  was  led  to  doubt  her  own 
senses,  and,  overwhelmed  with  confusion  at  her  supposed 
mistakes,  persuaded  her  mamma  to  decamp.  By  this  curious 
turn  of  disposition  I  have  gained  the  reputation  of  deliberate 
heartlessness  ;  how  undeserved,  I  alone  can  appreciate." 

In  a  long  letter,  written  on  20th  November,  1840,  Charlotte 
Bronte  gives  some  very  sage  advice  to  Ellen  Nussey  on  love 
and  marriage,  and  she  surely  refers  to  Lock  wood  in  Wuthering 
Heights  and  to  Branwell  Bronte  in  real  life  when  she  says, 
"  Did  I  not  once  tell  you  of  an  instance  of  a  relative  of  mine 
who  cared  for  a  young  lady,  until  he  began  to  suspect  that  she 
cared  more  for  him,  and  then  instantly  conceived  a  sort  of 
contempt  for  her  ?  You  know  to  whom  I  allude — Never  as 
you  value  your  ears  mention  the  circamstance."  l 

Both  Branwell  and  Charlotte  Bronte  had  had  experiences  of 
haunted  rooms,  or  thought  they  had ;  Branwell  once  slept 
in  a  haunted  room  at  Haworth  and  was  much  frightened, 
and  Charlotte  was  prone  to  see  ghosts  at  Roe  Head  and  Brussels. 
Then  Branwell's  mad  passion  for  his  employer's  wife  could  not 
but  influence  Emily's  version  of  Heathcliff's  regard  for 
Catherine,  when  she  was  the  wife  of  another  ;  but  the  purity 
of  the  passion  depicted  by  Emily  is  far  above  Branwell's 
infatuation  for  Mrs.  Robinson  ;  and,  though  Sir  Wemyss  Reid 
found  in  Branwell  Bronte's  letters  certain  phrases  used  by 
Heathcliff,  it  does  not  prove  that  he  had  written  a  line  of  the 
novel. 

Just  as  Emily  Bronte's  poems  are  greatly  superior  to 
Charlotte's  and  Anne's,  so  her  novel  shows  much  greater 
genius  than  anything  written  by  her  sisters. 

Emily's  one  novel  is  full  of  strength  and  power,  and  yet 
there  is  not  the  faintest  suggestion  of  impropriety ;  it  is,  as 
Swinburne  says,  "  pure  mind  and  passion,"  which  only  a  great 
genius  could  depict.  (The  love  between  Cathy  and  Heathcliff 
is  of  the  essence  of  purity,  and  represents  soul  speaking  to  soul. 
It  is  the, scenes  that  are  remembered  apart  from  the  actual 
wording.  Charlotte  speaks  of  the  relation  between  Heathcliff 
and  Cathy  as  inhuman,  but  her  Rochester  imitates  it,  though 

1  The  Brontes  :   Life  and  Letters,  by  Clement  K.  Shorter. 


DELAY   IN  RECOGNISING  EMILY'S  GENIUS     329 

he  never  soars  to  the  heights  that  Heathcliff  reaches.  Cathy 
and  Jane  have  much  in  common,  the  difference  mainly  repre- 
senting that  which  separates  the  two  writers.  Emily  was  a 
child  of  the  moors — original,  crude,  fierce — but  true  to  her 
natural  gifts.  The  very  childishness  of  parts  of  the  novel 
proves  its  essence  of  purity,  and  its  naturalness.  Charlotte's 
novel  was  the  creation  of  a  mind  that  had  been  tamed  ;  that 
had  tried  to  conform  to  the  rules  of  society.  Roe  Head, 
Stonegappe,  Rawdon,  and  most  of  all  Brussels  had  influenced 
Charlotte,  and  she  never  shook  herself  quite  free.  She  told 
Mrs.  Gaskell  that  her  most  vivid  scenes  were  thought  out  night 
after  night,  and  that  in  the  morning  she  awoke  with  it  all  clear 
in  her  mind.  She  also  told  Mrs.  Gaskell  that  on  sleepless 
nights  she  wrote  down  her  thoughts.  It  was  not  so  with 
Emily  ;  (from  the  moment  Nelly  Dean,  the  old  servant,  takes 
up  the  story,  it  seems  to  be  told  almost  in  one  breath.  It  has 
been  said  that  Emily  was  not  influenced  by  those  she  met, 
but  in  Brussels  she  found  in  M.  Heger  a  character  that  suggested 
Heathcliff,  or  rather  that  fitted  in  with  her  imaginary  lover, 
mentioned  over  and  over  again 'in  the  poems,  written  when 
she  was  little  more  than  a  child.  Emily  knew  that  M.  Heger 
had  suffered  and  borne  his  grief  alone. 

Emily  Bronte's  recognition  as  a  great  genius  has  been  long 
delayed,  but  her  fame  is  established,  and  her  life  as  it  is  revealed, 
bit  by  bit,  shows  a  brave,  good  woman,  domesticated,  affection- 
ate, loyal  and  true,  in  spite  of  a  certain  harshness  and  a  mascu- 
line demeanour.  Mrs.  Gaskell  never  really  grasped  Emily's 
character,  and  her  remarks  on  Wuthering  Heights  showed  that 
she  did  not  quite  approve  of  it.  Yet  the  plot  of  the  story 
appealed  to  her  so  forcibly  that  she  modelled  her  Sylvia's 
Lovers  on  it.  Cathy,  the  winsome,  mischievous,  heroine,  and 
Sylvia  have  much  in  common.  Heathcliff  and  Kinraid  each 
love  the  heroine  of  the  story — who  is  courted  by  a  richer 
lover,  Edgar  Linton  in  the  one,  and  Philip  Hepburn  in  the 
other — and  afterwards  they  go  away  and  are  not  heard  of 
again  for  some  time.  In  each  case  the  discarded  lover  returns 
after  the  marriage  of  the  heroine,  and  there  is  a  painful  scene. 
Though  the  return  of  Kinraid  is  the  most  dramatic  part  of 


330      IN   THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Sylvia's  Lovers,  it  does  not  approach  by  a  long  way  the  passion 
of  HeathclifPs  return  to  Cathy. 

Wuthering  Heights  must  stand  alone  as  a  great  tragedy, 
worthy  of  the  author  of  King  Lear  himself. 

Swinburne,  Emily  Bronte's  greatest  critic,  has  said,  "  Those 
who  have  come  to  like  Wuthering  Heights  will  probably  never 
like  anything  else  much  better  ;  the  novel  is  what  it  is  because 
the  author  is  what  she  is."  Until  Swinburne  gave  his 
magnificent  critique  on  this  extraordinary  novel,  the  world  had 
almost  passed  it  by,  for  Sydney  DobelFs  splendid  appreciation 
in  1850  had  almost  been  forgotten,  and  his  eulogium  is  marred 
by  his  suspicion  that  Charlotte  had  written  the  story.  His 
reasoning  is  the  work  of  a  genius,  and  so  far  as  the  introduction 
of  the  story  goes  he  may  be  right,  for  a  fragment  of  an  unpub- 
lished story  by  Charlotte  Bronte  has  a  somewhat  similar 
beginning.  Added  to  this  is  the  account  of  Charlotte's  dreams 
and  deliriums,  and  of  Shirley  Keeldar's  dreams  and  visions. 

The  four  letters  written  by  Charlotte  Bronte  to  M.  Heger, 
which  have  recently  been  published  in  The  Times  (July,  1913), 
throw  a  light  on  Wuthering  Heights. 

When  Charlotte  Bronte  left  Brussels  on  the  last  day  of 
1843  in  distress,  she  arrived  at  Ha  worth  ill  and  dejected  ; 
there  was  the  brave  Emily  and  the  father  to  receive  her,  but 
it  is  certain  she  would  not  confide  in  her  father. 

As  these  two  sisters  walked  on  the  moors,  it  cannot  be 
doubted  that  Charlotte — the  impulsive,  eager,  passionate, 
Charlotte — poured  out  her  reasons  for  leaving  Brussels  to  Emily, 
who  with  her  sympathetic  feeling  heard  the  story  of  her 
sister's  grief,  and  her  whole  soul  revolted  that  she  should  have 
suffered  so  cruelly.  The  Times  letters  refer  to  Charlotte's 
conversation  with  Emily  about  M.  Heger.  It  must  be  remem- 
bered that  Emily  Bronte*  knew  M.  Heger,  which  helped  her  to 
realise  the  position  much  better.  M.  Heger  was  unstinting 
in  his  praise  of  Emily  when  Mrs.  Gaskell  interviewed  him, 
and  Emily  would  not  have  been  a  woman  if  she  had  not 
recognised  that  M.  Heger  admired  her  great  powers.  Was 
it  the  case  of  Shirley  Keeldar  unconsciously  attracting  the 
love  of  Robert  Gerard  Moore,  to  the  grief  and  sorrow  of  Caroline 


EMILY   BRONTE'S   "HEAVEN"  331 

Helstone  as  revealed  at  the  close  of  Chapter  XXIII  in  Shirley  ? 
Who  knows  ?  Certain  it  is  that,  as  Shirley  Keeldar  was  superior 
to  Caroline  Helstone  in  personal  and  intellectual  qualities, 
so  was  Emily  Bronte  superior  to  Charlotte.  Had  Emily 
experienced  a  brief  gleam  of  love  either  in  Brussels  or  else- 
where ?  And  was  that  her  Heaven  that  she  dreamt  of,  a 
case  of  soul  recognising  soul  as  a  kindred  spirit  ? 
•  "  I  dreamt  once  that  I  was  there.  ...  I  was  only  going  to 
say  that  heaven  did  not  seem  to  be  my  home  ;  and  I  broke  my 
heart  with  weeping  to  come  back  to  earth;  and  the  angels 
were  so  angry  that  they  flung  me  out  into  the  middle  of  the 
heath  on  the  top  of  Wuthering  Heights ;  where  I  awoke  sobbing 
for  joy .  That  will  do  to  explain  my  secret,  as  well  as  the  other." 
Mrs.  Humphry  Ward  interpreted  this  to  mean  that  Emily 
preferred  the  moors  to  Heaven,  but  that  is  not  so.  Emily 
Bronte's  Heaven  was  where,  like  Cathy,  she  found  her  affinity. 

"  O  could  it  thus  for  ever  be, 

That  I  might  so  adore  ; 
I'd  ask  for  all  eternity, 
To  make  a  paradise  for  me, 
My  love — and  nothing  more/' 

She  wrote  these  lines  in  1843  whilst  Charlotte  was  in  Brussels. 
In  the  last  chapter  of  Wuthering  Heights  when  Heathcliff  is 
dying,  and  he  welcomes  death  as  he  hopes  to  meet  Cathy,  he 
says,  "  I  tell  you  I  have  nearly  attained  my  heaven  ;  and  that 
of  others  is  altogether  unvalued  and  uncoveted  by  me." 

Emily  Bronte's  heaven  was  to  be  with  the  spirit  of  the  ideal 
she  loved.  In  the  memorable  conversation  between  Cathy 
and  Nelly  Dean,  when  Cathy  tells  her  that  she  intends  to  marry 
Edgar  Linton,  Emily  Bronte  gives  the  highest  conception  of 
passionate  love  ever  written  ;  Wagner  and  Shelley  have  a 
similar  idea  of  the  passion,  but  they  do  not  show  the  masterful 
force  that  is  Emily  Bronte's. 

In  speaking  of  Heathcliff,  Cathy  says  :  "If  all  else  perished, 
and  he  remained,  I  should  still  continue  to  be ;  and  if  all 
else  remained,  and  he  were  annihilated,  the  universe  would 
turn  to  a  mighty  stranger  :  I  should  not  seem  a  part  of  it,"  and 
in  her  immortal  "  Last  Lines  "  she  writes — 


332      IN   THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONT&S 

"  Though  earth  and  man  were  gone, 
And  suns  and  universes  ceased  to  be, 
And  Thou  were  left  alone, 

Every  existence  would  exist  in  Thee." 

These  two  quotations  prove  that  the  same  mind  had  inspired 
the  mighty  words,  and  show  that  the  lover  Heathcliff  is  put 
in  the  place  of  God. 

In  the  French  translation  of  Wuthering  Heights  the  title  is 
L'Amant,  and  certainly  it  gives  a  better  description  of  the 
novel,  for  it  is  more  about  a  lover  than  a  building  or  a 
district.  In  Shirley,  Charlotte  Bronte  puts  into  the  mouth 
of  the  little  cripple,  "  I'll  write  a  book  that  I  may  dedicate  it 
to  you,"  and  Shirley  replies,  "  You  will  write  it,  that  you  may 
give  your  soul  its  natural  release,"  and  that  is  just  what  Emily 
has  done. 

Devotees  of  Emily  Bronte  have  searched  far  and  wide  for  the 
man  who  inspired  her  to  create  a  Heathcliff.  Look  around 
on  her  limited  male  acquaintances  and  who  was  there  that  could 
for  a  moment  appreciate  and  understand  her  as  it  is  known 
M.  Heger  did  ?  He  placed  her  not  only  above  Charlotte, 
but  above  all  women  :  "  She  ought  to  have  been  a  man,  a  great 
navigator."  Mrs.  Gaskell  never  explained  why  M.  Heger 
was  so  eager  to  praise  Emily,  and  why  he  gave  such  scant 
praise  to  Charlotte.  In  Shirley  the  two  Moores,  Robert  and 
Louis,  are  presented  as  being  so  alike  as  to  be  taken  the  one 
for  the  other,  and  Caroline  is  surprised  that  Shirley  has  kept 
the  secret  of  having  known  Robert's  brother.  Was  this  the 
explanation  of  Emily's  secret  that  she  found  her  ideal  in 
Brussels,  but  could  not  stay  there,  and  was  glad  to  get  back  to 
her  moorland  home  ?  Unfortunately  there  is  but  one  letter 
from  Emily  after  her  stay  in  Brussels  besides  her  novel  and 
poems.  Those  written  in  Brussels  in  1843  when  she  was  with 
her  father  are  all  sad  enough,  and  the  question  arises  if  Emily 
suffered  in  1843  as  Charlotte  did  in  1844. 

Who  but  M.  Heger  could  have  stood  as  the  original  of  Heath- 
cliffe  ?  A  strong,  powerful  tyrant,  with  the  pure  and  fierce 
love  of  a  very  god,  albeit  he  had  the  mind  of  a  little  child. 

Witness  his  passionate   tears   when   his  pupils  could  not 


HEATHCLIFF  333 

understand  the  beauty  of  his  rendering  of  choice  literature, 
and  his  beautifully  expressed  letter  of  condolence  to  Mr.  Bronte 
when  Miss  Bran  well  died.  On  the  other  hand,  one  of  his 
pupils  told  me  he  was  a  terror  to  the  dull  pupils,  or  to  those 
he  did  not  like. 

Charlotte  in  one  of  her  letters  says  that  Mary  Taylor  has 
no  one  like  M.  Heger  to  be  kind  to  her  and  lend  her  books  ; 
and  her  letter  to  Ellen  Nussey  on  leaving  Brussels  points 
in  the  Same  direction.  "  I  shall  not  forget  what  the  parting 
with  M.  Heger  cost  me,  it  grieved  me  so  much  to  grieve  him, 
who  has  been  so  true,  kind  and  disinterested  a  friend."  Yet 
another  time  she  says,  "  He  is  a  professor  of  rhetoric,  a  man  of 
power  as  to  mind,  but  very  choleric  and  irritable  in  tempera- 
ment ;  a  little  black  being,  with  a  face  that  varies  in  expression. 
Sometimes  he  borrows  the  lineaments  of  an  insane  tom-cat, 
sometimes  those  of  a  delirious  hyena."  Certainly  extremes 
meet  in  such  a  character,  as  they  did  in  Heathcliff . 

Now  turn  to  Emily's  Wuthering  Heights  where  she  speaks  of 
Heathcliff  as  "  a  dark-skinned  gipsy,"  and  again  as  "  the  little 
black-haired  swarthy  thing  as  dark  almost  as  if  it  came  from 
the  devil,"  and  then  read  of  his  agony  by  Cathy's  grave.  Both 
Charlotte  and  Emily  tried  to  get  the  germ  of  a  character  by 
tracing  it  from  its  childhood.  Charlotte  only  met  Mr.  George 
Smith  when  he  was  twenty-three,  yet  she  tries  to  write  of 
him  as  Graham  Bretton  when  a  schoolboy.  More  than  once 
in  Villette  she  describes  Paul  Emanuel  as  being  of  Spanish 
descent,  but  in  a  few  words  Emily  conveys  the  impression 
of  Ms  ancestors.  Charlotte,  in  her  explanation  of  the 
authorship  of  Wuthering  Heights,  says,  "  It  was  said  that  this 
was  an  earlier  and  ruder  attempt  of  the  same  pen  which 
had  produced  Jane  Eyre.  Unjust  and  grievous  error  !  We 
laughed  at  it  at  first,  but  I  deeply  lament  it  now."  The 
laughing  point  was  that  the  critics  had  seen  the  similarity  in 
certain  scenes,  but  they  did  not  discover  that  the  two  sisters 
had  the  same  models  for  the  chief  characters  of  the  stories, 
though  Cathy  and  Jane  are  as  different  as  Emily  and  Charlotte 
Bronte  :  one  is  "  a  wild  slip  of  a  girl,"  who  loves  to  wander 
over  the  moors  ;  the  other  "  the  staid  little  governess." 


334      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

Long  before  Emily  Bronte  went  to  Brussels  she  had  cherished 
an  idea  of  a  noble  being  with  a  soul  that  could  take  flights 
like  her  own,  and  reach  to  a  Heaven  of  pure  passion,  and  in  an 
unpublished  MS.  by  Charlotte,  written  in  1834,  she  also 
had  her  idea  of  an  imaginary  hero,  which|fits  M.  Heger  in 
many  ways. 

M.  Heger  was  the  first  man  to  approach  Emily  Bronte's 
ideal,  and  he  saw  in  her  a  spirit  that  could  mate  with  his  own. 
She,  like  Cathy,  recognised  a  kindred  spirit  in  him.  Frances 
in  The  Professor,  and  Shirley  Keeldar  in  Shirley,  where  she  is 
pupil  to  Louis  Moore,  are  based  upon  Emily  Bronte's  life  at 
Brussels.  Whether  she  realised  M.  Heger's  influence  before 
she  left  Brussels  in  October,  1842,  or  not  is  not  plain,  but  her 
high  moral  rectitude  kept  her  from  returning  to  Brussels;  and 
with  characteristic  self-effacement  she  let  Charlotte  go  alone, 
who  in  a  letter  written  years  afterwards  called  it  "  selfish  folly." 
Anne  could  have  taken  Emily's  place  at  home,  if  Emily  had 
chosen  to  return  with  Charlotte,  for  Anne  was  far  from  happy 
at  Thorpe  Green,  and  the  father  could  have  spared  Emily 
and  probably  would  have  preferred  her  to  accompany  Charlotte. 
It  is  very  probable  that  Charlotte  Bronte  never  found  out 
Emily's  secret,  until  she  discovered  the  poems  which  Emily 
guarded  so  carefully,  but,  as  Charlotte  Bronte  says  in  her 
preface  to  Wuthering  Heights,  "  The  writer  who  possesses  the 
creative  gift  owns  something  of  which  he  is  not  always  master." 
Wuthering  Heights  is  what  it  is,  not  only  because  the 
author  is  what  she  is,  but  because  of  what  the  author  knew 
and  experienced  during  her  life. 

If  Emily  Bronte  must  write  a  novel,  then,  like  her  sister,  she 
must  write  from  the  heart,  using  the  experience  of  which  she 
was  conscious.  When  Lockwood  first  met  Heathcliff  he  says, 
"  Mr.  Heathcliff  forms  a  singular  contrast  to  his  abode  and  style 
of  living.  He  is  a  dark-skinned  gypsy  in  aspect,  in  dress  and 
manners  a  gentleman  :  that  is,  as  much  a  gentleman  as  many 
a  country  squire  :  rather  slovenly,  perhaps,  yet  not  looking 
amiss  with  his  negligence,  because  he  has  an  erect  and  handsome 
figure ;  and  rather  morose.  Possibly,  some  people  might  suspect 
him  of  a  degree  of  underbred  pride;  I  have  a  sympathetic 


EMILY  BRONTE  AND  M.   HEGER  335 

chord  within  that  tells  me  it  is  nothing  of  the  sort  :  I  know, 
by  instinct  that  his  reserve  springs  from  an  aversion  to  showy 
displays  of  feeling — to  manifestations  of  mutual  kindliness." 

That  is  just  what  Emily  Bronte  could  and  would  say  on 
meeting  M.  Heger,  for  former  pupils  testify  to  M.  Heger 's 
negligence  in  dress,  and  Charlotte  tells  us  he  did  not  speak  to 
them  for  three  months  after  they  became  his  pupils,  only 
writing  his  remarks  of  their  devoirs  on  the  margin  of  their 
exercise  books.  Emily  Bronte  was  only  nine  months  in 
Brussels,  and  six  weeks  of  this  period  was  vacation,  when 
M.  Heger  was  away  from  the  pensionnat,  so  that  he  did  not 
have  much  to  do  with  the  two  sisters  during  the  remaining 
four  months.  M.  Heger  advised  M.  PAbbe  Richardson, 
when  beginning  his  career  as  a  teacher,  to  spend  the  first 
fortnight  studying  the  temperament,  idiosyncrasies,  ability 
and  habits  of  his  pupils,  but  a  fortnight  did  not  suffice  for  M. 
Heger  to  study  the  Brontes  ;  it  took  him  three  months,  and 
then  he  must  have  proceeded  warily.  When  Mrs.  Gaskell 
interviewed  him  he  had  gauged  Emily's  character  with  surpris- 
ing accuracy,  but  it  has  taken  the  world  more  than  half  a 
century  to  come  to  the  just  conclusion  that  M.  Heger  formed 
in  these  few  months. 

Charlotte  Bronte's  longing  for  love  as  expressed  in  her  novels 
was  quite  as  real  to  Emily,  and  possibly  felt  with  more 
intensity.  The  poem,  The  Old  Stoic,  was  written  in  1845. 

On  17th  May,  1842,  Emily  Bronte  wrote  a  poem  at  Brussels, 
which  helps  to  prove  that  she  had  had  a  vision  of  perfect 
love  in  Brussels,  and  this  poem  shows  that  none  but  Emily 
could  have  written  Wuthering  Heights,  though  the  sex  of  the 
actors  is  changed.  It  was  well  known  in  Brussels  that  M.  Heger 
had  lost  his  young  wife  nine  years  before  the  Brontes  went, 
and  it  was  known  that  the  loss  had  nearly  overwhelmed 
him,  and  it  was  probably  the  knowledge  of  this  love  story  that 
prompted  Emily  to  write  this  poem — 

"  In  the  same  place,  when  nature  wore 

The  same  celestial  glow, 
I'm  sure  I've  seen  these  forms  before 
But  many  springs  ago ; 


336      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

But  only  he  had  locks  of  light, 

And  she  had  raven  hair ; 
While  now  his  curls  are  dark  as  night, 

And  hers  as  morning  fair. 

Besides,  I've  dreamt  of  tears  whose  traces 

Will  never  more  depart, 
Of  agony  that  fast  effaces 

The  verdure  of  the  heart. 

I  dreamt  one  sunny  day  like  this, 
In  this  peerless  month  of  May, 

I  saw  her  give  th'  unanswered  kiss 
As  his  spirit  passed  away. 

Those  young  eyes  that  so  sweetly  shine 
Then  looked  their  last  adieu, 

And  pale  death  changed  that  cheek  divine 
To  his  unchanging  hue. 

And  earth  was  cast  above  the  breast, 
That  once  beat  warm  and  true, 

Where  her  heart  found  a  living  rest 
That  moved  responsively. 

Then  she,  upon  the  covered  grave, 
The  grass-grown  grave,  did  lie, 

A  tomb  not  girt  by  English  wave, 
Nor  arched  by  English  sky. 

The  sod  was  sparkling  bright  with  dew, 

But  brighter  still  with  tears, 
That  welled  from  mortal  grief  I  know, 

Which  never  heals  with  years. 

And  if  he  came  not  for  her  woe, 

He  would  not  now  return  ; 
He  would  not  leave  his  sleep  below, 

When  she  had  ceased  to  mourn. 

O  Innocence,  that  cannot  live 
With  heart-wrung  anguish  long, 

Dear  childhood's  innocence  forgive, 
For  I  have  done  thee  wrong ! 


EMILY  BRONTE'S  POEMS  337 

The  bright  rosebuds,  those  hawthorn  shrouds 

Within  their  perfumed  bower, 
Have  never  closed  beneath  a  cloud, 

Nor  bent  beneath  a  shower. 
Had  darkness  once  obscured  their  sun 

Or  kind  dew  turned  to  rain, 
No  storm-cleared  sky  that  ever  shone 

Could  win  such  bliss  again."  l 

Again  in  May,  1843,  whilst  Charlotte  is  away,  Emily  Bronte 
writes  a  serenade,  one  verse  of  which  reads — 

"  And  neither  Hell  nor  Heaven, 

Though  both  conspire  at  last, 
Can  take  the  bliss  that  has  been  given, 
Can  rob  us  of  the  past."  x 

These  are  the  thoughts  expressed  in  Withering  Heights. 
On  28th  July,  1843— two  days  before  Emily  Bronte's  twenty- 
fifth  birthday,  she  writes — 

"  I  know  our  souls  are  all  divine, 

I  know  that  when  we  die 
What  seems  the  vilest,  even  like  thine 
A  part  of  God  himself  shall  shine 
In  perfect  purity. 

Let  others  seek  its  beams  divine 

In  cell  and  cloister  drear ; 
But  I  have  found  a  fairer  shrine 

And  happier  worship  here. 
By  dismal  rites  they  win  their  bliss, 

By  penance,  fasts  and  fears ; 
I  have  one  rite — a  gentle  kiss  ; 

One  penance — tender  tears,"  l 

and  in  the  following  year,  2nd  March,   1844,  three  months 
after  Charlotte  Bronte's  return  from  Brussels,  she  writes — 

"  This  summer  wind  with  thee  and  me 

Roams  in  the  dawn  of  day ; 
But  thou  must  be,  when  it  shall  be, 

Ere  evening — far  away. 

The  farewell's  echo  from  thy  soul 

Should  not  depart  before 
Hills  rise  and  distant  rivers  roll 

Between  us  ever  more. 
1  Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte,  edited  by  Clement  Shorter. 

22 — (2200) 


338      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

I  know  that  I  have  done  thee  wrong, 
Have  wronged  both  thee  and  Heaven  ; 

And  I  may  mourn  my  lifetime  long 
And  may  not  be  forgiven. 

Repentant  tears  will  vainly  fall 

To  cover  deeds  untrue, 
For  by  no  grief  can  I  recall 

The  dreary  word  adieu  ! 

Yet  those  a  future  place  shall  win, 

Because  thy  soul  is  clear ; 
And  I  who  had  the  heart  to  sin 

Will  find  a  heart  to  bear. 

Till  far  beyond  earth's  frenzied  strife, 

That  makes  destruction  joy, 
Thy  perished  faith  shall  spring  to  life, 

And  my  remorse  shall  die."  1 

Emily  Bronte  has  been  treated  as  a  visionary  and  a  mystic, 
with  nothing  definite  and  tangible  about  her,  but,  although 
"  she  dwelt  apart,"  she  had  a  more  intense  and  real  affection 
for  the  things  that  matter  than  most  people. 

"  What  my  soul  bore  my  soul  alone 
Within  itself  may  tell." 

The  moorland  was  her  home,  and  it  was  on  those  desolate 
heights  that  she  fought  out  her  thoughts  and  conquered  only 
by  death. 

"  There  stands  Sidonia's  deity  ! 
In  all  her  glory,  all  her  pride  ! 
And  truly  like  a  god  she  seems. 
Some  lad  of  wild  enthusiast's  dream. 
And  this  is  she  for  whom  he  died ! 
For  whom  his  spirit  unforgiven 
Wanders  unsheltered,  shut  from  heaven, 
An  outcast  from  eternity."  l 

Who  but  the  creator  of  Heathcliff  could  have  written  those 
lines  ? 

On  the  authority  of  members  of  the  Heger  family,  Charlotte 
Bronte  told  pitiful  tales  of  her  brother  and  of  her  home  life 
to  the  Hegers,  and  it  is  not  too  much  to  surmise  that  M.  Heger. 

1  Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte,  edited  by  Clement  K.  Shorter, 


M.   HEGER'S   INFLUENCE  339 

related  some  of  his  own  early  troubles  in  such  a  way  as  to 
make  an  impression  on  the  future  novelists,  for  Charlotte 
taught  English  to  M.  Chappel,  whose  wife  was  sister  to  M. 
Heger's  first  wife. 

Little  did  M.  Heger  recognise  what  his  influence  was  with  the 
odd  geniuses;  what  he  told  them  became  scenes  for  their 
novels,  their  souls  knew  no  geographical  boundaries ;  what  they 
had  idealised  and  dreamt  of  in  Haworth,  they  applied  to  the 
religious,  passionate  "  Master  of  literature,"  who,  with  all 
his  fierce  passion,  became  Charlotte's  "  Christian  hero  "  and 
Emily's  ideal  lover. 

When  M.  Heger  died,  it  was  recorded  that  after  the  death 
of  his  first  wife  it  was  feared  he  would  not  survive ;  he  had  to 
find  relief  in  work,  which  implies  that  his  sorrow  was  so 
great  that  he  had  to  continually  find  something  to  assuage  his 
grief. 

M.  Heger  evidently  told  Charlotte  Bronte  some  facts  con- 
nected with  his  early  life  and  the  death  of  his  first  wife,  and 
Charlotte  in  turn  related  these  to  Emily,  who  with  sympathetic 
heart  and  keen  intellect  put  them  into  her  great  novel. 
Charlotte  and  Emily  Bronte  never  knew  anyone  in  Yorkshire 
who  loved  as  Heathcliff  loved  Cathy,  but  if  they  knew,  as  they 
probably  did,  of  M.  Heger's  overwhelming  grief,  it  would  fit 
in  with  their  conception  of  pure  and  undefiled  love  of  one  soul 
for  another.  In  Vittette,  Charlotte  Bronte  tells  of  Paul 
EmanuePs  Justine  Marie,  whose  spirit  haunted  him,  and  the 
incident  fits  in  with  Cathy's  spirit  haunting  Heathcliff. 

Poetry,  and  the  art  which  professes  to  regulate  and  limit  its 
powers,  cannot  subsist  together.  Emily  Bronte  had  the  true 
lyric  note,  and  the  unseen  had  a  greater  fascination  for  her 
than  the  mere  sayings  and  doings  of  men.  As  a  mystic  she 
valued  the  things  that  matter,  and  like  all  mystics  she  believed 
that  someway  and  somehow  true  love  was  returned.  )  She  was 
right  in  agreeing  with  an  unknown  poet  who  sang — 

"  The  knowledge  gained  at  every  turning, 

On  that  high  road  by  Science  trod, 
Serves  but  to  increase  our  yearning 
For  light  and  liberty  and  God. 


340      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

Yet  murmur  not  though  knowledge  only 
The  vastness  of  our  ignorance  prove, 

For  there's  no  soul  so  dark  and  lonely 
But  it  can  both  be  loved  and  love." 

Shelley  appealed  to  her,  and  the  love  between  Heathcliff  and 
Cathy  soars  to  the  same  heights  that  Shelley  attains  in 
Epipsychidion — verses  addressed  to  Emilia  V.  (or  Emily  as 
he  calls  her  later)  in  a  convent. 

"How  beyond  refuge  I  am  thine.    Ah  me ! 
I  am  not  thine  :   I  am  a  part  of  ihee" 

Compare  this  with  Cathy's  vehement :  "  I  am  HeathclifE." 
"  He's  more  myself  than  I  am." 

And  again,  Shelley  foreshadows  the  absolute  unity  of  spirit 
between  Heathcliff  and  Cathy  in  his  verses  to  Emilia. 

"  We  shall  become  the  same,  we  shall  be  one 
Spirit  within  two  frames.     Oh  !   wherefore  two  ? 
One  passion  in  twin-hearts,  which  grows  and  grew, 
Till,  like  two  meteors  of  expanding  flame, 
Those  spheres  instinct  with  it  become  the  same, 
Touch,  mingle,  are  transfigured  ;   ever  still 
Burning,  yet  ever  inconsumable. 


One  hope  within  two  wills,  one  will  beneath 
Two  overshadowing  minds,  one  life,  one  death, 
One  Heaven,  one  Hell,  one  immortality, 
And  one  annihilation." 

Charlotte  in  one  of  her  novels  mentions  Shirley's  love  for 
Shelley  as  a  poet.  Undoubtedly  this  sorrow  of  M.  Heger's 
attracted  both  Charlotte  and  Emily.  It  has  often  been  said, 
if  Emily  had  lived,  how  much  more  she  could  have  given  to  the 
world,  even  greater  and  better,  but  there  is  no  evidence  that 
she  was  eager  to  write  another  novel.  Unlike  Charlotte  and 
Anne  she  was  not  anxious  to  write  a  second  ;  she  had  spent 
her  strength  on  her  masterpiece.  Nothing  could  have  given  a 
greater  conception  of  love  between  two  spirits  than  that 
depicted  in  her  one  great  story.  Mr.  Malham-Dembleby 
in  his  Key  to  the  Bronte  Works  has  travelled  on  the  right  road 
when  he  shows  that  Heathcliff,  Rochester,  Robert  Moore,  and 


EMILY   BRONTE'S   PERSONALITY  341 

Paul  Emanuel  each  owe  something  to  M.  Heger,  but  he  does 
not  prove  that  Charlotte  wrote  Wuthering  Heights.  Wuthering 
Heights  is  "  pure  mind  and  passion,"  to  quote  Swinburne  again, 
and  the  material  things  of  life  are  so  dwarfed  in  the  story 
that  they  hardly  matter.  (The  intensity  of  the  passion  is  the 
dominating  note  of  the  novel,  and  after  the  death  of  Cathy 
her  spirit  broods  over  the  pages  and  is  never  absent.  ) 
f  Emily  Bronte  wrote  from  instinct)  (No  novelist  can  be 
drawn  to  write  of  what  repels  her,  and  it  is  evident  that  Emily 
had  a  conception  of  great  beauty  in  the  love  between  Cathy 
and  Heathcliff,  and,  if  she  must  write  a  love  story,  it  must 
show  the  essence  of  true  love  as  it  appeared  to  her.  J  Charlotte 
said  later  that  Emily  might  have  become  a  model  essayist, 
but  it  would  not  have  been  possible  to  tell  a  story  of  such 
thrilling  interest  in  an  essay,  f  No  form  of  literature  other 
than  a  novel  could  have  been  the  medium  for  portraying  such 
a  tragic  tale  of  love  and  suffering ]  /The  personality  of  Emily 
shines  through  the  story,  "  moorish,  wild  and  knotty  as  a  root 
of  heather,"  and  yet  what  a  mind  she  had  to  conceive 
characters  like  Heathcliff  and  Cathy  !  "Stronger  than  a  man, 
simpler  than  a  child."  How  her  readers  shudder  under  the 
tyranny  of  Heathcliff,  and  tremble  at  the  intensity  of  his 
passion  ;  and,  if  those  who  read  it  feel  it,  what  must  have  been 
the  thoughts  of  Emily  as  she  wrote  ?  Charlotte  tells  in  her 
letters  that  when  M.  Heger  was  angry  she  cried,  and  that  put 
matters  right,  but  Mrs.  Gaskell  says  that  Emily  answered  him 
back,  just  as  Cathy  would  have  done.  Some  of  the  passages 
are  among  the  most  sublime  in  the  English  language,  and  the 
heights  and  depths  are  beyond  ordinary  comprehension/  It 
is  amateurish  and  wanting  in  technique,  but  so  powerful 
is  the  passion  of  the  story  that  the  construction  of  the  plot  does 
not  seem  to  matter.  Emily's  sympathy  with  her  chief  char- 
acters, Cathy  and  Heathcliff,  is  intense,  and  it  is  that  sympathy 
which  grips  her  readers,  though  some  of  the  scenes  are  cruel 
and  appalling.  ) 

There  is  more  of  the  real  Emily  Bronte  in  Wuthering  Heights 
than  in  any  of  her  poems.'  She  associates  this  intense  love 
story  with  the  moorland  people  at  the  end  of  the  eighteenth 


342      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS   OF  THE   BRONTES  - 

century,  but  the  vital  issue  is  from  herself,  and  her  hero  is  a 
foreigner. 

Having  written  this  novel,  she  never  wrote  anything  more 
except  the  immortal  "  Last  Lines."  It  has  been  said  over 
and  over  again,  that  Brussels  made  no  impression  on  Emily 
Bronte  ;  that  cannot  be  proved.  Granted  that  in  her  few 
months  at  Brussels  she  made  a  greater  impression  on  M.  Heger 
than  Charlotte  did  in  two  years,  it  is  unthinkable  that  she 
did  not  receive  much  from  her  experience  in  Brussels  that 
altered  her  whole  outlook  on  life.  In  the  poems  written  by 
Emily  after  her  return  from  Brussels,  there  is  a  longing  for 
love,  and  a  still  greater  longing  for  death. 

Mr.  Swinburne  has  written  the  most  just  criticism  of  Wuthcr- 
ing  Heights,  and  he  concludes,  "  It  may  be  true  that  not  many 
will  ever  take  it  to  their  hearts  ;  it  is  certain  that  those  who  do 
like  it  will  like  nothing  very  much  better  in  the  whole  world  of 
poetry  or  prose." 

It  is  strange  that  Emily  Bronte  should  have  objected  to 
Charlotte  seeing  her  poems,  unless  they  contained  something 
which  she  wished  to  conceal.  The  one  poem,  written  in 
Brussels  in  May,  1842,  and  the  poems  written  in  the  years  1843 
to  1845,  which  include  those  written  in  the  year  that  shfc  was 
alone  with  her  father,  point  to  her  meditations  on  the  over- 
whelming sorrow  for  the  loss  of  the  loved  one.  Comparing 
these  poems  with  those  written  previous  to  her  visit  to  Brussels 
it  is  evident  that  M.  Heger's  love  story  which  she  had  heard 
in  Brussels  fitted  her  conception  of  a  deathless  love,  and  that 
she  idealised  the  wanderer  on  the  moor  by  comparing  him  with 
M.  Heger. 

"  Listen  !     I've  known  a  burning  heart, 

To  which  my  own  was  given  ; 
Nay,  not  with  passion,  do  not  start, 
Our  love  was  love  from  heaven/' 

Again  she  writes — 

"  Angelica,  from  my  very  birth 

I  have  been  nursed  in  strife  ; 
And  lived  upon  this  weary  Earth 
A  wanderer  all  my  life. 


MRS.  GASKELL  AND  EMILY  BRONTE        343 

The  baited  tiger  could  not  be 

So  much  athirst  for  gore, 
For  men  and  laws  have  tortured  me, 

Till  I  can  bear  no  more. 

The  guiltless  blood  upon  my  hands 

Will  shut  me  out  from  heaven, 
And  here,  and  even  in  foreign  lands, 

I  cannot  find  a  haven."1 

On  July  26th,  1843,  Emily  writes— 

"  Had  there  been  falsehood  in  my  breast 

No  doubt  had  marr'd  my  word ; 
This  spirit  had  not  lost  its  rest, 
Those  tears  had  never  flowed."  x 

Emily  Bronte  was  not  so  visionary  and  introspective  as  she 
has  been  described.  People  and  places  did  affect  her,  though 
not  sufficiently  to  tempt  her  to  reveal  their  identity/ and  her 
hard  work  in  Brussels  was  not  lost  on  her.  Had  she  never 
gone  to  Brussels,  she  would  not  have  written  her  best  poems — 
The  Old  Stoic,  Death,  and  the  immortal  Last  Lines.  Far 
from  being  a  mere  dreamer,  she  has  shown  at  her  highest 
a  powerful  grip  of  both  worlds.  Just  as  Charlotte  Bronte 
grew  both  in  mind  and  soul,  so  did  Emily ;  it  is  idle  to  think 
she  differed  so  much  from  her  family.  Mrs.  Gaskell  has  done 
ill  by  Emily  in  describing  her  as  hard,  and  as  giving  all  her  love 
to  animals  ;  but  those  who  love  animals  cannot  truly  dislike 
human  beings,  and  Paul  Emanuel  is  described  by  Charlotte  as 
having  a  great  love  for  his  little  dog.  In  Chapter  XII  of  Shirley, 
M.  Heger,  as  Robert  Moore,  is  discussed  by  Caroline  and 
Shirley,  and  his  love  of  animals  is  mentioned  in  his  favour.  Mrs. 
Gaskell  made  a  mistake  in  attributing  this  to  Charlotte  Bronte. 

In  Charlotte's  letter,  published  in  The  Times  on  29th  July, 
1913,  she  says,  with  reference  to  the  starting  of  a  school  at  the 
Ha  worth  parsonage,  "  Emily  does  not  care  much  for  teaching, 
but  she  would  look  after  the  housekeeping,  and,  although  some- 
thing of  a  recluse,  she  is  too  good-hearted  not  to  do  all  she 
could  for  the  well-being  of  the  children.  Moreover  she  is  very 
generous."  Good-hearted  and  generous  !  those  words  describe 
the  "  Sphinx  of  Literature,"  the  incomparable  Emily  Bronte. 

1  Complete  Poems  of  Emily  Bronte,  by  Clement  K.  Shorter. 


344      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

In  a  conversation  that  I  had  with  Martha  Brown's  sister, 
she  described  Emily  as  being  kind  and  generous  to  all  in  the 
home,  and  she  believed  Emily  died  of  a  broken  heart  for 
love  of  her  brother  Branwell,  because  she  realised  what  he 
might  have  been  if  he  had  been  guided  aright.  It  is  strange 
that  it  was  Emily  who  had  most  sympathy  for  Branwell; 
seeing  Charlotte  had  suffered  for  love  of  her  master,  she  ought 
to  have  had  more  pity  for  her  brother.  Besides  M.  Heger's 
story,  and  his  passionate  personality,  Emily  had  two  studies 
before  her — Charlotte's  passion  for  M.  Heger  and  Bran  well's 
for  Mrs.  Robinson — but  Branwell  was  not  in  keeping  with 
her  hero :  he  was  too  weak,  and  Charlotte's  fierce  passion 
resulted  in  fevers,  deliriums  and  bad  dreams,  caused  by  her 
poignant  regrets  on  leaving  Brussels. 

Cathy  in  Wuthering  Heights  trampled  on  every  code  of  a 
wife's  duty  to  her  husband,  but  if  her  delirium,  in  which  she 
fasted  for  three  days,  is  studied,  it  is  easy  to  see  that  Edgar 
Linton  is  based  upon  old  Patrick  Bronte,  who  had  a  sad  time 
with  his  headstrong  daughter.  *  Emily  does  not  give  anything 
of  a  real  husband's  feelings  in  Edgar  Linton's  indifference 
to  Cathy's  state  after  she  locks  herself  in  her  own  room,  subse- 
quent to  her  mad  fit  of  temper,  when  she  wishes  to  spite  Edgar 
by  dying.  This  is  not  only  a  weak  character,  but  it  is  treated 
with  lack  of  knowledge. ;  Cathy  says,  "  I'll  choose  between 
these  two  :  either  to  starve  at  once — that  would  be  no  punish- 
ment unless  he  had  a  heart — or  to  recover  and  leave  the 
country." 

"  .  .  .  .  These  three  awful  nights  I've  never  closed  my  lids — 
and  oh,  I've  been  tormented  !  I've  been  haunted,  Nelly  ! 
But  I  begin  to  fancy  you  don't  like  me.  How  strange  !  I 
thought,  though  everybody  hated  and  despised  each  other, 
they  could  not  avoid  loving  me.  And  they  have  all  turned 
to  enemies  in  a  few  hours  :  they  have,  I'm  positive  ;  the  people 
here.  How  dreary  to  meet  death,  surrounded  by  their  cold 
faces!  Isabella,  terrified  and  repelled,  afraid  to  enter  the 
room,  it  would  be  so  dreadful  to  watch  Catherine  go.  And 
Edgar  standing  solemnly  by  to  see  it  over ;  then  offering 
prayers  of  thanks  to  God  for  restoring  peace  to  his  house,  and 


EDGAR  LINTON  345 

going  back  to  his  books  !  What  in  the  name  of  all  that  feels 
has  he  to  do  with  books,  when  I  am  dying  ?  "  Charlotte  Bronte 
says  in  one  of  her  letters  to  M.  Heger  :  "  Oh,  it  is  certain  that 
I  shall  see  you  again  one  day — it  must  be  so — for  as  soon  as  I 
shall  have  enough  money  to  go  to  Brussels  I  shall  go  there — 
and  I  shall  see  you  again,  if  only  for  a  moment  "  ;  evidently 
like  Cathy  she  had  resolved  either  to  die  or  go  to  Brussels. 

The  incident  of  the  two  locks  of  hair  which  Nelly  Dean 
twisted  together  and  enclosed  in  a  locket  worn  by  the  dead 
Cathy  is  mentioned  in  Shirley,  and  possibly  has  some  connection 
with  Charlotte  Bronte. 

It  was  the  sense  of  beauty — indispensable  to  the  creative 
artist — that  Emily,  with  her  visions,  saw  in  Charlotte's  dreams, 
and  in  meditating  on  these,  Emily  created  her  novel.  Charlotte 
Bronte  varied  in  her  estimation  of  M.  Heger  just  as  Cathy  did 
in  the  case  of  Heathcliff.  Did  Charlotte  find  out  that  Emily 
had  some  regard  for  M.  Heger,  and  did  Emily  discover 
Charlotte's  secret  from  her  deliriums  ? 

Emily  describes  Isabel  Linton's  admiration  for  Heathcliff, 
and  Cathy  in  her  amazement  pictures  him  to  Isabel  as  "  an 
arid  wilderness  of  furze  and  whinstone,"  whilst  Isabel  says, 
"  All,  all  is  against  me  :  she  has  blighted  my  single  consolation. 
But  she  uttered  falsehoods,  didn't  she  ?  Mr.  Heathcliff 
is  not  a  fiend  :  he  has  an  honourable  soul,  and  a  true  one." 
Genius  never  fully  discovers  itself  till  brought  into  contact 
with  fellow  genius,  and  both  Emily  and  Charlotte  found  in 
M.  Heger  a  character  that  altered  all  their  former  opinions 
of  men.  A  novelist  who  sees  something  exciting  in  life, 
cannot  refrain  from  transmitting  the  vision  to  others ; 
she  must  tell  the  story  in  some  way.  Emily  had  written 
verses,  but  they  did  not  convey  all  she  wanted  to  tell,  and,  when 
Charlotte  suggested  that  the  three  sisters  should  each  write 
a  novel,  Emily  had  hers  ready  to  hand.  She  had  meditated 
on  M.  Heger,  on  Charlotte  and  her  fevers,  dreams,  and  deliriums, 
and  on  Bran  well.  All  her  life  she  had  been  brooding  over  the 
mysteries  of  love  and  death,  and  when  it  is  remembered  that 
Wuthering  Heights  was  begun  in  the  latter  part  of  1845,  or 
early  in  1846,  it  is  not  a  matter  for  surprise  that  "  Over  it 


346      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

there  broods  a  horror  of  great  darkness,"  and  that  "in  its 
storm-heated  and  electrical  atmosphere,  we  seem  to  breathe 
lightning,"  to  quote  Charlotte  Bronte,  for  it  was  in  January, 
1844,  that  Charlotte  came  home  infatuated  with  her  "  Master, 
and  from  that  time  to  the  end  of  1845  she  was  frantic  for  letters 
from  him,  and  in  the  very  depths  of  despair  for  a  sight  of 
him — a  monomaniac,  as  she  describes  herself.  Charlotte 
in  some  phases  stood  for  Cathy,  and  Emily  created  the  intensely 
passionate  Heathcliff  to  match  her,  but  it  is  the  spirit  of  the 
two  that  matters  to  the  exclusion  of  everything  else. 
In  one  of  her  poems  Emily  writes — 

Watch  in  love  by  a  fevered  pillow, 
Cooling  the  fever  with  pity's  balm  ; 

Safe  as  the  petrel  on  tossing  billow, 
Safe  in  mine  own  soul's  golden  calm  ! 

Guardian-angel  he  lacks  no  longer  ; 

Evil  fortune  he  need  not  fear  : 
Fate  is  strong,  but  love  is  stronger  ; 

And  my  love  is  truer  than  angel-care." 

As  Charlotte  and  Emily  tramped  the  moors  "  to  the  damage  of 
their  shoes,  but  the  benefit  of  their  health,"  Charlotte  told  her 
sister  of  her  sorrow  and  anguish,  and  Emily  had  to  bear  with 
her  for  nearly  two  years.  We  read  in  her  letter,  dated  Novem- 
ber, 1845,  "  I  have  denied  myself  absolutely  the  pleasure  of 
speaking  about  you — even  to  Emily  ;  but  I  have  been  able 
to  conquer  neither  my  regrets  nor  my  impatience."  It  is  easy 
to  understand  Charlotte's  never-ending  sorrow  for  the  loss  of 
Emily,  for  it  was  she  who  comforted  and  bore  with  her  during 
this  wretched  time.  If  Charlotte  wrote  down  her  dreams, 
and  Emily  wrote  of  her  deliriums  during  her  illness,  no  wonder 
Charlotte  said  on  preparing  a  new  edition  of  Withering  Heights 
that,  on  looking  over  the  papers,  they  left  her  prostrate  and 
caused  her  sleepless  nights. 

A  year  and  a  half  after  Charlotte's  miserable  home-coming, 
Branwell  was  dismissed  in  July,  1845,  and  he  returned  to 
Haworth  frantically  mad  for  the  love  of  Mrs.  Robinson.  He 
had  been  at  Thorpe  Green  two  and  a  half  years,  though  in 
the  Preface  to  Emily  Bronte's  Complete  Poems,  it  is  stated 


A  LIVE  DOCUMENT  347 

under  date  March,  1844,  "  Bran  well  got  worse  and  worse, 
drinking  heavily  to  excess,"  which  is  quite  untrue. 

Here  was  Emily,  the  patient  housekeeper,  with  a  love-sick 
brother  and  sister,  both  incapable  of  controlling  their  thoughts 
or  feelings.  It  is  not  surprising  that  Charlotte  said  that  Ellis 
Bell  would  wonder  what  was  meant,  and  suspect  the  com- 
plainant of  affectation  if  they  could  not  believe  the  scenes 
pictured  in  Wuihering  Heights.  We  see  Emily  trying  to 
comfort  both  Charlotte  and  Bran  well,  and  yet  keeping  her  own 
counsel.  In  a  letter  now  privately  printed  by  Mr.  Wise, 
Charlotte  says  she  could  bear  to  let  Anne  go  because  she  seemed 
to  belong  to  God  ;  but  she  wanted  to  hold  Emily  back  when 
she  died,  and  she  felt  that  for  years  afterwards. 

Emily's  spirit  seemed  strong  enough  to  bear  her  to  fulness 
of  years,  and  Charlotte  never  ceased  to  mourn  for  her. 

It  becomes  necessary  to  find  some  reason  for  Emily  writing, 
at  white  heat,  Wuihering  Heights — a  live  doc  amen  t.  Surely 
it  was  because  she  could  not  help  herself.  She  heard  Char- 
lotte's passionate  story,  and  she  most  probably  heard  the 
record  of  her  dreams  and  knew  of  her  pitiful  letters.  Lucy 
Snowe  tells  of  sending  letters  to  Paul  Emanuel,  but  before  she 
sent  them  she  wrote  another  version  for  herself,  and  in  those 
long,  sleepless  nights  of  1844  and  1845  Charlotte  probably 
wrote  her  thoughts. 

It  seems  quite  probable  that  Charlotte  Bronte  did  write  her 
passionate  thoughts  which  have  found  their  way  into  Wuthering 
Heights,  and  afterwards  she  discarded  them.  Possibly,  they 
told  too  much,  for  in  her  poems — Frances,  Apostacy,  Gilbert, 
and  the  long  poem  in  The  Professor,  she  tells  her  heart's 
secrets  without  any  reserve.  Did  she  first  write  her  thoughts 
in  prose  ?  She  was  the  soul  of  truth  and  could  not  conceal 
her  feelings.  As  more  and  more  of  her  life  is  revealed, 
we  see  how  that  life  is  reflected  in  her  novels.  In  her  preface 
to  Wuthering  Heights,  Charlotte  Bronte  says,  "  Nor  is  even  the 
first  heroine  of  the  name  (Cathy)  destitute  of  a  certain  strange 
beauty  in  her  fierceness,  or  of  honesty  in  the  midst  of  perverted 
passion  and  passionate  perversity."  In  after  years  Charlotte 
probably  saw  her  infatuation  as  such. 


348      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS   OF  THE   BRONTES 

Over  and  over  again,  Wuthering  Heights  has  been  described 
as  a  dream,  a  nightmare,  and  certain  scenes  are  veritable 
nightmares.  Mrs.  Humphry  Ward  calls  it  a  baseless 
nightmare.  Now  we  know  that  Charlotte,  like  Cathy,  did 
actually  have  dreams  and  fever  :  that,  like  Cathy,  she  was 
delirious  :  that  she  resembled  Caroline  Helstone,  who,  when  ill, 
was  pining  for  Robert  Gerard  Moore  :  and  like  Jane  Eyre,  who 
longed  for  Rochester,  when  ill  at  Morton,  after  leaving  Thorn- 
field,  it  is  easy  to  see  that  there  was  some  foundation  for  the 
character  of  Cathy.  If  Cathy  owes  something  to  Charlotte 
then  there  is  only  M.  Heger  for  Heathcliff,  who  undoubtedly 
is  a  different  type  of  lover  from  Rochester,  Moore,  or  Paul 
Emanuel,  although  all  are  drawn  from  the  same  original. 
Some  of  the  scenes  in  Wuthering  Heights  were  suggested  to 
Emily  Bronte  by  what  she  saw  in  her  own  home. 

It  is  hardly  fair  to  say  that  Emily's  genius  was  entirely 
introspective,  for  the  one  novel  breathes  the  very  atmosphere 
she  was  surrounded  by  in  1844-46.  It  was  the  passionate 

(intensity  of  vision  which  moved  her  to  write  her  masterpiece. 
What  she  saw  she  felt  compelled  to  transmit,  and  the  emotion 
that  is  felt  by  the  reader  of  certain  passages  in  Wuthering 
Heights  must  have  been  felt  in  greater  intensity  by  Emily 
Bronte  when  she  was  writing  her  novel.  ,  Like  Byron  she 
possessed 

"  A  fount  of  fiery  life 
Which  served  for  a  Titanic  strife  "  ; 

and  as  Charlotte  says  of  this  best  beloved  sister  whom  she 
addressed  as  "  Mine  bonnie  love " — "  having  formed  these 
beings,  she  did  not  know  what  she  had  done." 

It  is  probable  that  Emily  and  Charlotte  occupied  the  same 
bedroom.  The  present  rector  of  Ha  worth  thinks  that  the 
tiny  room  over  the  passage,  which  was  said  to  be  Emily's, 
could  scarcely  have  been  used  as  a  bedroom,  as  it  is  only  ten 
feet  by  five  ;  in  any  case,  if  Emily  did  not  sleep  in  the  same 
room,  she  would  certainly  have  to  nurse  Charlotte  in  her 
illness,  for  Charlotte  was  ill  during  1844-45.  Emily,  good 
and  faithful,  would  keep  old  Tabby  away  as  much  as  possible. 


SYDNEY   DOBELL'S  CRITIQUE  349 

It  would  not  be  too  much  to  say  that  the  two  sisters  agreed 
to  write  a  novel,  Emily  writing  of  Charlotte  and  an 
imaginary  lover  and  Charlotte  writing  of  Emily  and  Crims- 
worth,  which  for  the  nonce  represented  M.  Heger,  as  the 
conversations  relating  to  the  devoirs  are  certainly  founded 
on  actual  remarks  made  on  Emily's  work  at  Brussels,  for  both 
sisters  put  into  their  novels  much  of  their  own  life.  In  the 
light  of  the  recently  published  Bronte  letters  in  The  Times, 
it  is  certainly  remarkable  that  Sydney  Dobell  should  say  in 
the  Palladium  in  1850,  "  Let  her  (the  author)  rejoice  if  she  can 
again  give  us  such  an  elaboration  of  a  rare  and  fearful  form  of 
mental  disease — so  terribly  strong,  so  exquisitely  subtle — 
with  such  nicety  in  its  transitions,  such  intimate  symptomatic 
truth  in  its  details,  as  to  be  at  once  a  psychological  and  medical 
study.  It  has  been  said  of  Shakespeare,  that  he  drew  cases 
which  the  physician  might  study ;  Currer  Bell  has  done  no 
less."  This  critique  was  written  when  the  writer  insisted 
that  Withering  Heights  was  written  by  Charlotte  Bronte, 
and  it  is  an  open  question  whether  she  did  write  down  her 
dreams  and  nightmares.  Seeing  that  it  was  Charlotte  Bronte 
who  had  fever  and  delirium,  and  that,  according  to  her  letter 
to  M.  Heger,  she  pined  away,  would  it  be  possible  for  her  to 
remember  the  thoughts  passing  through  her  mind  ?  Does 
not  this  fact  point  to  Emily  as  the  nurse  who  takes  Nelly 
Dean's  place,  and  records  the  deliriums  ? 

Sydney  Dobell,  in  answering  Charlotte  Bronte,  suggests  a 
double  entente,  but  the  scenes  in  Withering  Heights  and  Jane 
Eyre,  which  are  similar,  are  not  to  be  compared  for  passion, 
though  the  fact  that  Charlotte  was  delirious  accounts  for 
some  of  the  scenes  which  she  may  have  copied  from  Withering 
Heights,  which  are  given  by  Emily.  Compare  the  case  of 
Cathy  in  the  locked  and  haunted  room  with  Jane  Eyre  under 
similar  circumstances ;  it  is  quite  possible  for  Emily  to  be 
in  the  place  of  Nelly  Dean  and  to  be  able  to  tell  the  tale  quite 
graphically,  and  at  the  same  time  for  Charlotte  to  relate 
it  in  Jane  Eyre  as  it  appeared  to  her.  Charlotte  Bronte 
admits  to  M.  Heger  in  one  of  her  letters,  "  Day  and  night  I 
find  neither  rest  nor  peace.  If  I  sleep  I  am  disturbed  by 


350      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS   OF   THE   BRONTES 

tormenting  dreams,  in  which  I  see  you  always  severe,  always 
grave,  always  incensed  against  me,"  and,  in  a  letter  to  Mr. 
Williams  commenting  on  Thackeray's  genius,  Charlotte  Bronte 
says,  "  he  borrows  nothing  from  fever  ;  his  is  never  the  energy 
of  delirium."  Surely  it  was  a  dream  when  Heathcliff  visited 
Cathy  just  before  her  death ;  only  a  woman  in  the  throes  of 
delirium  would  hold  a  lover  down  and  say  "  I  wish  I  could 

hold  you till  we  were  both  dead  !     I  shouldn't  care 

what  you  suffered.  I  care  nothing  for  your  sufferings.  Why 
shouldn't  you  suffer  ?  "  "  I  do  !  Will  you  forget  me  ?  Will 
you  be  happy  when  I  am  in  the  earth  ?  Will  you  say  twenty 
years  hence,  '  That's  the  grave  of  Catherine  Earnshaw  ? 
I  loved  her  long  ago,  and  was  wretched  to  lose  her  ;  but  it  is 
passed.  I  have  loved  many  others  since  :  my  children  are 
dearer  to  me  than  she  was ;  and,  at  death,  I  shall  not  rejoice 
that  I  am  going  to  her  :  I  shall  be  sorry  that  I  must  leave 
them  ! '  Will  you  say  so,  Heathcliff  ?  "  There  is  a  scene  in 
Shirley  based  on  this  dream  in  the  chapter  on  The  Valley  of 
the  Shadow  of  Death,  and  the  author  says  :  "I  was  appalled 
and  dared  not  rise  to  seek  pencil  and  paper  by  the  dim 
watchlight."  Charlotte,  in  her  recently  published  letters,  tells 
of  writing  to  ease  her  suffering,  but,  as  she  had  been  warned  to 
tone  down  her  letters,  she  writes  her  highly  strung  thoughts 
in  solitude  for  herself.  In  Chapter  XII,  there  is  Cathy's  three 
days'  fast  and  her  fever  which  point  to  the  ravings  of  delirium. 
A  dreaming  mind  is  said  to  be  a  powerful  although  a  primitive 
mind,  and,  if  all  dreams  are  based  on  a  wish,  it  is  easy  to  see 
the  origin  of  Charlotte's  dreams  at  this  time. 

Nightmare  has  been  denned  as  the  suppression  of  an  urgent 
wish ;  if  this  definition  is  correct,  then  it  is  easy  to  trace 
Charlotte  Bronte's  nightmares  during  the  year  1844  and 
1845,  when  she  was  regretting  having  left  M.  Heger  and  longing 
to  see  him,  if  only  for  a  moment.  It  is  thus  plain  to  see  why 
Wuthering  Heights  has  been  attributed  to  Charlotte  Bronte, 
and  why  she  said  she  possessed  no  real  claim  to  it.  Parts  of  the 
novel  are  based  on  her  dreams,  nightmares,  fevers  and  her 
infatuation  for  M.  Heger,  but  Emily  was  the  nurse  just  as 
Nelly  Dean  was  to  Cathy ;  and  just  as  Cathy  told  her  dreams 


THE  HAWORTH  WORKSHOP  351 

to  Nelly  and  she  in  turn  related  them  to  Lockwood,  so  Charlotte 
Bronte  told  her  dreams  to  Emily  who  wove  them  into  her  novel, 
though  the  effect  of  this  pitiful  state  of  Charlotte  urged 
Emily  to  create  a  cruel  Heathcliff.  Added  to  this  is  Emily's 
own  experience.  Charlotte  tells  us  that  Wuthering  Heights 
was  hewn  in  a  wild  workshop,  with  simple  tools,  out  of  homely 
materials. 

The  wild  workshop  was  the  Haworth  parsonage  on  the 
desolate  moors,  and  the  homely  materials  Emily  found  in  her 
own  home.  "  He  (Ellis  Bell)  wrought  with  a  rude  chisel,  and 
from  no  model  but  the  vision  of  his  meditations."  Well 
might  Charlotte  Bronte  use  the  word  meditations  rather  than 
imaginations.  Emily,  the  brave  visionary,  saw  power  and 
strength  in  Charlotte's  and  Bran  well's  infatuation,  but  she 
also  saw  the  evil  that  a  passionate,  selfish  spirit  could  accom- 
plish, because  it  could  not  have  its  own  way  and  realise  its 
own  ardent  wish.  Because  Heathcliff  could  not  possess 
Cathy,  body  and  soul,  he  trampled  on  every  human  being 
that  came  in  his  way,  and  took  his  revenge  by  destroying  all 
who  had  in  any  way  opposed  him. 

'  I  seek  no  revenge  on  you,'  replied  Heathcliff  less 
vehemently.  '  That's  not  the  plan.  The  tyrant  grinds 
down  his  slaves  and  they  don't  turn  against  him  ;  they  crush 
those  beneath  them.'  "  There  is  much  expressed  by  Emily 
here. 

The  character  of  Heathcliff  was  not  to  Charlotte  Bronte's 
liking,  and  it  is  possible  that,  if  Emily  had  used  him  again, 
she  would  have  toned  down  some  of  the  traits  in  his  character. 
Emily  had  her  own  troubles,  but  she  sacrificed  herself  in  her 
efforts  to  comfort  other  members  of  the  family. 

Wuthering  Heights  has  been  described  by  Mr.  Dobell  as 
"  the  unformed  writing  of  a  giant's  hand  ;  the  large  utterance 
of  a  baby  god."  Had  he  known  Emily  Bronte  he  would  have 
recognised  how  well  his  words  applied  to  her,  rather  than  to 
Charlotte.  Although  he  did  not  quite  understand  Charlotte's 
disclaimer,  he  wrote  asking  her  to  visit  him  and  his  wife  in 
their  home  near  Cheltenham,  saying,  "  We  will  talk  over 
Wuthering  Heights  together,  and  I  will  ask  you  to  tell  me 


352      IN   THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE   BRONTES 

everything  you  can  remember  of  its  wonderful  author.  I 
see  how  freely  I  may  speak  to  you  of  my  estimate  of  her 
genius."  He  would  not  have  pressed  her  to  discuss  Emily's 
novel,  if  he  had  known  that  it  contained  records  of  the  darkest 
time  of  her  life  when  she  was  writing  to  M.  Heger,  and  that 
is  just  the  part  that  puzzled  Sydney  Dobell.  "  I  shall  not 
re-read  this  letter.  I  send  it  as  I  have  written  it.  Neverthe- 
less, I  have  a  hidden  consciousness  that  some  people,  cold  and 
common  sense  in  reading  it  would  say — '  She  is  talking 
nonsense.'  I  would  avenge  myself  on  such  persons  in  no  other 
way  than  by  wishing  them  one  single  day  of  the  torments 
which  I  have  suffered  for  eight  months.  We  should  then  see 
if  they  would  not  talk  nonsense,  too."  So  writes  Charlotte 
to  M.  Heger  in  November,  1845.  And  again  "  One  suffers 
in  silence  so  long  as  one  has  the  strength  so  to  do,  and  when 
that  strength  gives  out  one  speaks  without  too  carefully 
measuring  one's  words."  That  is  the  passionate  Cathy, 
with  her  torments  and  her  unbridled  tongue  in  Wuthering 
Heights,  as  Emily  describes  her. 

What  makes  a  hero,  is  less  the  deeds  of  the  figure  chosen 
than  the  understanding  sympathy  of  the  artist  with  the 
figure.  Emily  Bronte  had  loved,  but  the  loved  one  was 
beyond  her.  Whether  it  was  an  ideal  or  a  person  matters  not ; 
her  passion  soars  beyond  that  of  any  other  woman  writer. 
At  times  she  seems  choked  in  expressing  herself.  It  has  been 
said  there  is  no  language  for  spirits,  but  Emily  Bronte 
approached  as  near  as  any  writer  in  the  conversation  between 
Cathy  and  Heathcliff ;  it  was  spirit  speaking  to  spirit. 
Charlotte  Bronte  attempted  a  similar  task,  but  never  attained 
the  same  heights,  though  Jane  Eyre  said  to  Rochester,  "  It 
is  my  spirit  that  addresses  your  spirit,  just  as  if  both  had  passed 
through  the  grave  and  we  stood  at  God's  feet,  equal — as  we 
are  !  " 

Hate  is  a  source  of  inspiration  just  as  love  is,  and  it  has  been 
responsible  for  many  works  of  creative  genius.  Shelley's 
poems  owed  much  to  his  hatred  of  tyranny  and  conventionality. 
Granted  that  Emily  Bronte  saw  in  M.  Heger  an  ideal,  when  she 
found  that  Charlotte's  passion  for  him  was  treated  with 


CHARLOTTE'S   PREFACE  TO  THE  NOVEL     353 

contempt  and  that  Bran  well's  mad  love  for  Mrs.  Robinson 
made  him  an  object  of  derision,  she  may  have  been  inspired 
to  make  Heathcliff  as  the  type  of  a  passionate  lover,  brutal 
and  unforgiving  ;  and  yet  his  end  is  his  longing  for  Heaven — 
his  union  with  Cathy.  "  O  God  !  It  is  a  long  fight,  I  wish 
it  were  over  !  " — and  later  when  death  draws  near  he  exclaims, 
"  I'm  too  happy,  and  yet  I'm  not  happy  enough.  My  soul's 
bliss  kills  my  body,  but  does  not  satisfy  itself."  It  may  be 
asked  finally  why  Emily  Bronte  created  such  a  character  as 
Heathcliff  to  mate  with  Cathy,  since,  with  his  fierce  passion, 
he  killed  the  woman  he  loved.  Charlotte  answers  this  question 
in  the  preface  to  Wuthering  Heights  where  she  says  the  writer 
who  possesses  the  creative  gift  owns  something  of  which  he 
is  not  always  master,  something  which  at  times  strangely 
wills  and  works  for  itself  ;  and  in  support  of  this  she  quotes 
from  Job  xxxix  10,  where  it  says  :  "  Canst  thou  bind  the 
unicorn  with  his  band  in  the  furrow  ?  or  will  he  harrow  the 
valleys  after  thee  ?  "  She  also  makes  use  of  verse  7  :  "  He 
scorneth  the  multitude  of  the  city,  neither  regardeth  he  the 
crying  of  the  driver."  Wuthering  Heights  is  the  outcome  of 
a  great  mind  ;  it  is  not  meant  for  human  enjoyment  or  human 
opposition.  It  is  there,  and  we  may  take  it  or  leave  it. 

In  Charlotte  Bronte's  novels  the  love  of  the  woman  is  always' 
greater  than  that  of  the  man,  and  the  heroines  Jane  Eyre, 
Caroline  Helstone,  and  Lucy  Snowe  long  for  love  first,  but  in 
Emily's  there  is  equality  in  the  love.  Charlotte  refers  to  this 
in  her  preface,  when  she  says  Ellis  Bell  could  never  be 
brought  to  comprehend  that  faithfulness  and  clemency,  long- 
suffering  and  loving-kindness,  which  are  esteemed  virtues 
in  the  daughters  of  Eve,  become  foibles  in  the  sons  of  Adam. 

The  intensity  of  the  passion  between  Heathcliff  and  Cathy 
leaves  the  readers  with  the  firm  conviction  that  it  is  immortal, 
so  beautifully  expressed  in  the  concluding  words  of  the  novel. 
"  I  lingered  round  them,  under  that  benign  sky  ;  watched  the 
moths  fluttering  among  the  heath  and  harebells,  listened  to 
the  soft  wind  breathing  through  the  grass,  and  wondered 
how  anyone  could  ever  imagine  unquiet  slumbers  for  the 
sleepers  in  that  quiet  earth." 


354      IN  THE   FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

And  we  hear  Cathy's  voice  twenty  years  after  her  death  as 
given  in  the  third  chapter — 

"  *  Let  me  in — let  me  in  ! ' 

"  '  Who  are  you  ?  '  I  asked,  struggling,  meanwhile,  to 
disengage  myself. 

"  '  Catherine  Lin  ton,'  it  replied '.  I'm  come  home  : 

I'd  lost  my  way  on  the  moor !  '  " 

And  in  the  last  chapter  we  see  the  boy  on  the  moor  with 
"  a  sheep  and  two  lambs  before  him :  he  was  crying  terribly  ; 
'  what  is  the  matter,  my  little  man  ?  '  I  asked. 

"  '  There's  Heathcliff  and  a  woman  yonder,  under  t'  Nab,' 
he  blubbered,  '  un  I  darnut  pass  'em. ' 

"  I  saw  nothing  ;  but  neither  the  sheep  nor  he  would  go  on  ; 
so  I  bid  him  take  the  road  lower  down." 

As  the  story  begins  with  one  spirit  crying  to  another  in 
distress,  it  appropriately  ends  with  the  two  who  haunt  the 
moors  together  for  evermore,  y 


CHAPTER  XXV 

CHARLOTTE   AND   ANNE   BRONTE'S   VISIT  TO   LONDON 

DEATH   OF   BRANWELL   AND 

EMILY   BRONTE 

ANNE  BRONTE  and  The  Tenant  of  Wildfell  Hall — Branwell  Bronte 
and  Anne's  second  novel — Charlotte  and  Anne  Bronte  visit  London 
— They  stay  at  the  Chapter  Coffee  House — Interview  with  the 
publishers — Visit  to  the  Opera — Death  of  Branwell  and  Emily 
Bronte. 

ALTHOUGH  of  the  members  of  the  family  at  Haworth  parsonage 
Anne  Bronte  had  the  least  claim  to  genius — though,  if  she  had 
not  been  overshadowed  by  her  sisters,  she  might  have  ranked 
higher — such  was  her  delight  on  the  acceptance  by  the  pub- 
lishers of  Agnes  Grey  that  she  set  to  work  on  a  second  novel. 
Mr.  Newby,  the  publisher,  remarked  that  he  considered 
Wuthering  Heights  a  dreadful  book,  and  it  seems  that  Agnes 
Grey  was  the  first  of  the  trio  of  novels  to  get  accepted. 

The  Tenant  of  Wildfell  Hall  was  probably  the  first  temperance 
novel,  and  it  was  written  with  a  purpose.  Charlotte  Bronte 
loved  to  act  as  censor,  and  she  considered  that  the  subject 
was  not  by  any  means  suitable  for  her  sister  to  deal  with,  but 
Anne  was  determined,  and  she  wrote  from  a  most  conscien- 
tious motive.  Some  of  the  reviewers  found  much  fault  with 
this  novel ;  it  was  considered  exaggerated,  which  Anne  Bronte 
denied  in  the  preface  of  the  second  edition.  She  affirmed  that 
the  story  was  true  enough,  though  she  admitted  that  the 
profligate — the  principal  character,  "  Arthur  Huntingdon  " — 
was  an  extreme  case.  "  I  wished  to  tell  the  truth,  for  truth 
always  conveys  its  own  moral."  Charlotte  Bronte  says  that 
the  choice  of  subject  was  an  entire  mistake,  though  the  motives 
which  dictated  this  choice  were  pure.  "  She  (Anne  Bronte) 
had,  in  the  course  of  her  life,  been  called  on  to  contemplate 
near  at  hand,  and  for  a  long  time,  the  terrible  effects  of  talents 
misused,  and  faculties  abused.  .  .  .  She  brooded  over  it, 
till  she  believed  it  to  be  a  duty  to  reproduce  every  detail 

355 


356      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

(of  course  with  fictitious  characters,  incidents  and  situations) 
as  a  warning  to  others." 

It  is  a  pity  that  whenever  a  bad  character  appears  in  a 
Bronte  novel,  or  one  of  the  characters  appears  in  an  unfavour- 
able light,  either  in  speech  or  action,  poor  Bran  well  should  get 
the  credit  of  being  the  original.  Almost  every  writer  on  the 
Brontes  attributes  Huntingdon  and  his  vices  to  Bran  well 
Bronte.  The  Haworth  friends,  who  knew  the  best  as  well  as 
the  worst  of  Branwell,  emphatically  denied  it,  and  it  is  certain 
that  Charlotte  Bronte's  allusion  to  the  characters  in  The 
Tenant  of  Wild  fell  Hall  has  been  misunderstood.  Anne 
Bronte  would  never  have  betrayed  her  only  brother  by  por- 
traying him  as  a  drunken  profligate  ;  she  was  too  loyal  to  her 
home  to  expose  any  member  in  this  manner,  and,  moreover, 
it  is  incomprehensible  how  anyone  can  for  a  moment  think 
that  a  married  man,  such  as  Huntingdon  is  portrayed,  could 
ever  be  said  to  have  had  an  original  in  Branwell  Bronte. 

Charlotte's  remarks  apply  to  a  Mr.  C ,  a  curate  near 

Haworth,  of  whom  she  writes  in  a  letter  to  Ellen  Nussey — 

"  Mrs.  C came  here  the  other  day,  with  a  most  melan- 
choly tale  of  her  wretched  husband's  drunken,  extravagant, 
profligate  habits.  .  .  . 

"  I  am  morally  certain  no  decent  woman  could  experience 

anything  but  aversion  towards  such  a  man  as  Mr. .     Before 

I  knew,  or  suspected  his  character,  and  when  I  rather  wondered 
at  his  versatile  talents,  I  felt  it  in  an  uncontrollable  degree. 
I  hated  to  talk  with  him — hated  to  look  at  him  ;  though  as  I 
was  not  certain  that  there  was  substantial  reason  for  such  a 
dislike,  and  thought  it  absurd  to  trust  to  mere  instinct,  I  both 
concealed  and  repressed  the  feeling  as  much  as  I  could ;  and, 
on  all  occasions,  treated  him  with  as  much  civility  as  I  was 
mistress  of.  I  was  struck  with  Mary's  *  expression  of  a  similar 
feeling  at  first  sight ;  she  said,  when  we  left  him,  '  That  is  a 
hideous  man,  Charlotte  ! '  I  thought  '  he  is  indeed.' ' 

The  Squire,  Mr.  Lawrence*  in  Wildfell  Hall  and  Heathcliff  in 
Wuthering  Heights  have  something  in  common,  both  being 
1  Mary  Taylor. 


THE   TENANT  OF   WILD  FELL   HALL         357 

accused  of  "  excessive  reserve  "  and  "  an  aversion  to  showy 
displays  of  feeling." 

When  Mr.  Newby  accepted  The  Tenant  of  Wildfell  Hall  he 
sold  the  sheets  of  the  novel  to  an  American  publisher,  and 
caused  it  to  be  understood  that  the  story  was  by  the  author 
of  Jane  Eyre  and  Agnes  Grey,  thus  creating  the  impression 
that  the  three  novels  were  written  by  the  same  person.  Messrs. 
Smith,  Elder  &  Co.,  Charlotte  Bronte's  publishers,  had  arranged 
to  sell  the  sheets  of  her  next  novel  to  a  certain  publisher  in 
America,  but  when  The  Tenant  of  Wildfell  Hall  was  advertised 
as  by  the  author  of  Jane  Eyre,  the  American  publishers  at 
once  asked  Messrs.  Smith,  Elder  &  Co.  for  an  explanation. 
They  in  turn  wrote  to  Ha  worth  parsonage,  and  caused  such  a 
commotion  in  that  quiet  household,  that  Charlotte  quickly 
arranged  to  take  Anne  with  her  to  London  in  order  to  "  con- 
front Newby  with  the  lie,"  after  taking  the  advice  of  Mr. 
George  Smith.  Charlotte  Bronte  was  always  careful  not  to 
offend  Messis.  Smith,  Elder  &  Co.,  who  had  treated  her  in  a 
manner  so  different  from  the  publishers  with  whom  Emily 
and  Anne  had  had  to  deal.  The  hurried  preparations,  the 
walk  on  a  July  day  through  a  thunderstorm  from  the  vicarage 
to  Keighley — a  hard  four  mile  walk — a  railway  journey  from 
Keighley  to  Leeds,  and  then  a  night  journey  to  London  had 
sufficient  excitement  to  suit  Charlotte  immensely.  Anne, 
however,  was  quiet  and  serene,  and  probably  slept  during  the 
night  travel.  Charlotte  had  been  interested  in  London  when 
she  had  passed  through  on  her  way  to  and  from  Brussels, 
and  the  chance  of  visiting  it  again,  even  when  on  an  unpleasant 
errand,  satisfied  her  love  of  change  and  excitement. 

The  arrival  at  Euston  at  seven  o'clock  on  that  Saturday 
morning  afforded  something  for  Anne  to  look  back  upon,  for 
she  had  never  been  out  of  Yorkshire  before.  The  two  sisters 
went  straight  to  Charlotte's  old  quarters  at  the  Chapter  Coffee 
House  in  Paternoster  Row.  The  proprietor  was  doubtless 
surprised  to  see  two  quaintly  dressed  country  women  asking 
if  they  could  have  breakfast  and  lodgings  for  the  week-end. 
After  a  meal,  they  meant  to  get  a  cab  to  Cornhill,  but  in  their 
confusion  they  managed  to  cross  the  road  and  walk  to  number 


358       IN   THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

65  Cornhill ;  Mr.  Smith  tells  us  it  occupied  nearly  an  hour 
to  cover  the  half-mile. 

It  is  an  old  story  how  they  walked  into  what  was  apparently 
a  bookseller's  shop,  and  asked  for  Mr.  George  Smith.  After 
waiting  a  while,  they  were  received  by  the  busy  editor,  and 
Charlotte  placed  in  his  hand  the  letter  which  he  had  sent  her. 
Mutual  recognition  resulted,  and  it  was  now  Mr.  Smith's  turn 
to  become  excited  :  "  You  wrote  Jane  Eyre''  he  exclaimed, 
looking  at  the  little  woman.  Charlotte  laughed  at  Mr.  Smith's 
question,  and  admitted  the  authorship,  and  after  "  talk, 
talk,  talk,"  they  found  their  way  back  to  the  Chapter  Coffee 
House.  In  the  evening  Mr.  Smith  called  upon  them,  accom- 
panied by  his  mother,  his  sisters  and  Mr.  Williams,  and  it  was 
decided  that  the  whole  party  should  go  to  the  Opera  to  see 
The  Barber  of  Seville. 

Charlotte  was  elated  at  the  prospect,  while  Anne  was  quiet 
and  composed,  as  she  always  was,  so  Charlotte  tells  us. 
Charlotte,  on  the  other  hand,  was  all  excitement,  and  she  found 
it  necessary  to  take  a  strong  dose  of  sal-volatile  before  entering 
the  carriage  with  her  visitors. 

Mr.  Williams  remembered  Charlotte  Bronte  saying  :  "  You 
know  I  am  not  accustomed  to  this  kind  of  thing,"  as  she  leaned 
on  his  arm  when  ascending  the  steps  of  the  Opera  House. 

Mary  Taylor  received  a  good  and  detailed  account  from 
Charlotte  Bronte,  which  Mrs.  Gaskell  published. 

The  sisters  refused  to  accept  an  invitation  to  stay  with 
Mr.  Smith's  mother  at  4  Westbourne  Place,  Bishop's  Road, 
preferring  to  be  independent.  Charlotte  loved  the  stir  and 
bustle  of  the  City,  and  in  Villette  she  says — 

"  Since  those  days,  I  have  seen  the  West  End,  the  parks, 
the  fine  squares  ;  but  I  love  the  City  far  better.  The  City 
seems  so  much  more  in  earnest ;  its  business,  its  rush,  its  roar 
are  such  serious  things,  sights,  sounds.  The  City  is  getting  its 
living — the  West  End  but  enjoying  its  pleasure.  At  the  West 
End  you  maybe  amused,  but  in  the  City  you  are  deeply  excited." 

The  sisters  had  to  pass  through  Kensington  Gardens  on  their 
way  to  the  home  of  Mr.  Williams,  where  they  took  tea.  They 


CHARLOTTE  AND  ANNE  BRONTE  VISIT  LONDON   359 

were  struck  by  "  the  beauty  of  the  scene,  the  fresh  verdure 
of  the  turf,  and  the  soft  rich  masses  of  foliage,"  and  still  more 
were  they  struck  by  the  soft  and  varied  intonation  of  the 
voices  of  the  people  in  the  South  compared  with  the  rough  and 
blunt  speech  of  the  North. 

This  visit  to  London  was  the  subject  of  much  conversation 
for  a  long  time  in  the  Haworth  vicarage,  and  when  some  years 
afterwards  Martha  Brown,  the  servant,  had  an  opportunity 
of  visiting  London,  she  was  much  interested  in  Paternoster 
Row  and  the  Chapter  Coffee  House  as  well  as  the  publishing 
firm  in  Cornhill.  She  had  assured  Charlotte  Bronte  that  she 
should  visit  the  two  latter  places  and  tell  them  that  she  came 
from  Haworth  parsonage.  "  You  never  will,  Martha  !  "  said 
Charlotte.  "  But  I  will,"  replied  Martha,  in  her  broad  York- 
shire, and  her  sister,  Mrs.  Ratcliffe,  affirmed  that  she  carried 
out  her  intention  in  part  by  making  herself  known  at  the 
Chapter  Coffee  House  to  the  waiter,  whilst  at  Cornhill  she  was 
content  with  seeing  the  young  man  behind  the  counter  on 
which  were  books,  some  of  which  had  "  Currer  Bell "  on  the 
cover.  Her  courage  failed,  however,  and  she  did  not  dare 
to  ask  for  the  head  of  the  firm,  which  very  much  amused 
Charlotte  Bronte. 

After  the  two  sisters  had  returned  to  Haworth,  Charlotte 
worked  hard  at  Shirley.  Mrs.  Gaskell  does  not  tell  us  much 
that  happened  when  Charlotte  and  Anne  visited  Mr.  Newby, 
but  Mary  Taylor,  in  one  of  her  letters,  says  :  "  What  did  Newby 
say  when  he  met  the  real  Ellis  Bell  ?  " x  which  is  strange,  seeing 
that  it  was  Currer  and  Acton  that  went  to  see  him.  The  matter 
was  left  mainly  in  the  hands  of  Mr.  George  Smith,  who  was 
not  successful  in  obtaining  the  money  due  to  the  Bronte 
sisters,  Emily  and  Anne. 

Branwell  was  causing  trouble  in  the  home,  and  the  sisters 
were  keeping  the  secret  of  their  authorship  not  only  from  him, 
but  also  from  their  friends.  Whilst  in  London  they  adopted 
the  name  of  Brown,  and  they  were  determined  that  the  secret 
should  not  leak  out  through  them.  It  was  about  this  time, 

1  Evidently  an  error  as  in  her  next  letter  she  refers  to  Emily  as  the 
author  of  Wuthering  Heights. 


360      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

when  Branwell  was  drinking  heavily,  that  he  narrowly  escaped 
with  his  life.  Having  gone  to  bed  drunk,  he  managed  to  set 
his  bedclothes  on  fire,  and  Charlotte,  passing  the  bedroom, 
saw  the  flames  and  called  to  Emily,  who  quickly  threw  water 
over  the  bed  and  partly  dragged  and  partly  carried  Branwell 
to  her  own  room.  It  was  all  a  matter  of  a  few  moments,  and 
after  giving  up  her  own  bed  she  contented  herself  with  the 
couch  in  the  dining-room,  the  one  on  which  she  breathed  her  last. 
That  horsehair  sofa  is  still  in  use  in  Bradford,  though,  when 
I  last  saw  it,  it  was  in  a  house  near  the  vicarage  at  Haworth. 

Mr.  Clement  Shorter  has  questioned  this  incident,  which  Miss 
Robinson  first  mentioned  in  her  monograph  on  Emily  Bronte, 
but  the  account  is  quite  true.  The  story  was  confirmed  by 
Dr.  Ingham,  the  Haworth  doctor  who  attended  some  of  the 
members  of  the  Bronte  family.  As  Mr.  Bronte  was  still  living 
when  Mrs.  Gaskell  collected  her  information,  Dr.  Ingham  did  not 
volunteer  any  details  about  the  family,  though  he  was  able  after- 
wards to  point  out  several  errors  in  the  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte. 

Branwell  Bronte's  health  was  completely  undermined  by 
his  drinking  habits,  and  in  fact  he  was  slowly  dying  of  consump- 
tion. Mrs.  Ratcliffe  told  me  that  he  became  a  mere  skeleton. 
She  well  remembers  the  last  time  he  was  in  her  father's  house, 
when  she  and  her  sisters  were  teasing  him  because  his  clothes 
hung  on  him  so  loosely  ;  they  asked  him  if  he  had  got  his 
father's  coat  on.  Poor  fellow  !  he  was  dead  two  days  after- 
wards. John  Brown,  the  sexton,  went  to  see  him  in  his  bed- 
room on  the  day  that  he  died,  and  he  affirmed  that  Branwell 
did  not  die  standing  up,  as  stated  by  Mrs.  Gaskell.  From 
what  the  father  told  Mr.  Brown,  Branwell  lost  all  his  bravado  ; 
he  raised  himself  a  little,  as  the  last  paroxysm  came  on,  just 
before  he  died,  and  was  very  penitent  and  prayed  for  forgive- 
ness from  all  the  members  of  the  family.  He  whispered 
"  Amen  "  after  his  father  had  prayed  by  the  bedside. 

Haworth  mourned  for  this  misguided  brother,  for  with  all 
his  faults  he  was  a  favourite.  In  his  early  days,  much  was 
expected  of  the  brilliant  youth,  who,  it  was  hoped,  would  hand 
down  the  name  of  Bronte  to  future  generations  as  one  worthy 
of  being  remembered. 


DEATH  OF  BRAN  WELL  BRONTE     361 

According  to  the  old  servants,  Emily  mourned  most  for  the 
brother.  "  She  died  of  a  broken  heart  for  love  of  her  brother 
Branwell,"  said  Martha  Brown's  sister.  She  realised  what 
he  might  have  been,  had  he  been  trained  and  guided  aright. 
Charlotte  seemed  surprised  that  Branwell  should  have  died 
so  soon,  but  Emily,  who  waited  for  him,  night  after  night, 
probably  knew  that  the  end  was  not  far  off.  She  was  the  only 
sister  who  wrote  stanzas  to  his  memory.  Charlotte  had  lost 
patience  with  him  and,  if  Haworth  tales  are  to  be  believed, 
she  did  not  speak  to  him  for  weeks  together  before  his  death. 
Anne,  like  Emily,  pitied  him  ;  she  writes  of  his  illness  and  of 
his  having  much  tribulation  when  at  Thorpe  Green,  and,  like 
Emily,  she  hoped  "  He  would  be  better,  and  do  better  in  the 
future." 

The  funeral  was  the  first  after  the  aunt's  death.  All  the 
family  attended,  as  well  as  the  Browns,  and  a  neighbouring 
clergyman.  Emily  went  back  to  the  house  broken-hearted ; 
she  was  present  at  the  funeral  service  on  the  following  Sunday, 
and  that  was  the  last  time  she  was  out  of  doors.  It  was 
September,  and  a  cold  on  the  chest  developed  lung  trouble. 
At  all  costs  a  doctor  should  have  been  consulted,  whether  she 
agreed  or  not.  Charlotte's  pitiful  appeal  to  Mr.  Williams  for 
help  and  advice  is  sad  reading,  but  it  needed  a  stronger  will 
than  Charlotte's  to  deal  with  Emily.  What  the  father  was 
thinking  of  is  a  puzzle,  but  Emily  was  considered  to  be  the 
strong  member  of  the  family.  When  Tabby  was  old  and  feeble, 
it  was  Emily  who  took  her  place  in  the  early  morning,  and  it 
was  she  who  traversed  the  moors  in  all  sorts  of  weather  with 
her  dogs  at  her  heels. 

Charlotte  and  Anne  had  a  sad  time  during  the  illness  of 
Emily,  who  seemed  to  be  a  fatalist,  and  was  prepared  to  suffer 
rather  than  yield  and  consult  a  doctor.  In  early  December 
Charlotte  searched  the  moors  for  one  sprig  of  heather,  however 
faded,  but  Emily  was  too  ill  to  appreciate  it.  The  old  servants 
said  that  she  dreaded  giving  trouble  ;  she  had  great  faith  in 
her  own  strong  will  power.  Well  might  she  write  in  her 
Last  Lines,  "  No  coward  soul  is  mine." 

There  are  few  more  pathetic  scenes  described  in  literature 


362      IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

than  that  of  Emily  Bronte  in  her  dying  moments.  Getting 
out  of  bed,  she  tried  to  comb  her  hair  before  the  fire,  but  such 
was  her  weakness  that  the  comb  fell  from  her  hand  into  the 
fire.  Martha  Brown  was  near,  and  the  poor,  dying  Emily 
gasped,  "  See,  Martha,  my  comb  has  fallen  into  the  fire,  and  I 
cannot  get  it."  Martha  picked  it  up  and  recognised  that 
Emily  had  not  long  to  live.  After  dressing  herself  she  was 
quite  exhausted  and  remarked,  "  I  will  see  a  doctor  now," 
but  it  was  too  late  ;  she  leaned  on  the  couch  and  passed 
quietly  away.  The  brave,  heroic  spirit  was  quenched,  and 
Charlotte  and  Anne,  with  the  old  father,  had  to  suffer  another 
and  a  greater  bereavement. 

There  is  not  the  slightest  doubt  that  Emily  might  have 
lived  longer  if  she  had  received  medical  aid  in  time,  but  "  while 
full  of  ruth  for  others,  on  herself  she  had  no  pity." 

The  old  comb,  with  a  piece  burnt  out,  that  fell  from  Emily's 
grasp,  is  now  in  my  possession.  It  was  the  last  thing  that 
Emily  held,  and,  when  she  could  no  longer  retain  it  in  her  hand, 
she  realised  that  she  was  meeting  death,  of  which  she  had  so 
often  written. 

Haworth  had  scarcely  recovered  from  the  shock  of  BranwelPs 
death,  when  the  old  church  bell  tolled  for  Emily,  the  pride 
of  the  family,  and  the  willing  helper  of  the  old  servants.  She 
whom  none  had  quite  understood  was  taken  from  them,  and 
the  parsonage  had  lost  its  most  helpful  inmate.  There  are 
no  letters  of  Anne's  to  show  her  grief,  but,  if  Charlotte  missed 
the  sister  "  who  made  the  sunshine  of  her  life,"  what  must  Anne 
have  felt,  to  whom  Emily  had  been  as  a  second  mother  ?  Anne 
was  frail  and  timid,  though  brave,  as  all  the  Bronte's  were,  but 
Emily  was  always  ready  to  shield  and  defend  her.  The  little 
gate  of  death  at  the  end  of  the  garden  had  once  more  to  be 
unlocked  to  permit  of  another  sad  procession  to  wind  its  way 
through  to  the  church.  The  poor,  broken-hearted  father, 
Charlotte,  Anne,  the  servants  and  the  curate,  Mr.  Nicholls, 
were  there.  The  whole  village  gathered  round  the  grave  ; 
it  was  pitiful  that  Emily — the  Major,  as  she  was  called,  because 
of  her  smart,  soldierly  bearing — should  so  soon  have  followed 
Bran  well  to  his  last,  long  home. 


DEATH   OF  EMILY   BRONTE  363 

"  As  the  old  bereaved  father  and  his  two  surviving  children 
followed  the  coffin  to  the  grave,  they  were  joined  by  Keeper, 
Emily's  fierce,  faithful  bull-dog.  He  walked  alongside  of  the 
mourners,  and  into  the  church,  and  stayed  quietly  there  all 
the  time  that  the  burial  service  was  being  read.  When  he 
came  home,  he  lay  down  at  Emily's  chamber  door,  and  howled 
pitifully  for  many  days." 

Charlotte  Bronte's  letters  at  this  time  are  sad  reading  : 
there  is  no  rebellion.  She  would  know  fiom  Emily's  poetry 
that  death  was  welcome  to  this  child  of  nature.  Her  poems 
are  full  of  an  ache  for  the  release  of  the  spirit ;  the  body  seemed 
to  clog  it,  and  it  may  be  that  she  longed  for  rest  and  welcomed 
death.  The  date  of  her  poem  entitled  Death  is  1843,  the  year 
after  she  left  Brussels.  If  Emily  Bronte  could  have  chosen 
her  grave,  it  would  not  have  been  in  the  cold,  damp  church, 
but  on  the  wild  moors. 

"  DEATH. 
Death  !  that  struck  when  I  was  most  confiding 

In  my  certain  faith  of  joy  to  be — 
Strike  again,  Time's  withered  branch  dividing 
From  the  fresh  root  of  Eternity ! 

Strike  it  down,  that  other  boughs  may  flourish 
Where  that  perished  sapling  used  to  be ; 

Thus,  at  least,  its  mouldering  corpse  will  nourish 
That  from  which  it  springs — Eternity." 

Charlotte  tells  how,  as  Emily's  physical  strength  diminished, 
mentally  she  grew  stronger.  "  Day  by  day,  when  I  saw  with 
what  a  front  she  met  suffering,  I  looked  on  her  with  an  anguish 
of  wonder  and  love."  Emily  Bronte's  Last  Lines  must  have 
been  written  at  this  time. 

"  No  coward  soul  is  mine, 
No  trembler  in  the  world's  storm-troubled  sphere ; 

I  see  Heaven's  glories  shine, 
And  faith  shines  equal,  arming  me  from  fear. 

O  God  within  my  breast, 
Almighty,  ever-present  Deity  ! 

Life — that  in  me  has  rest, 
As  I — undying  Life — have  power  in  Thee  ! 


364       IN  THE  FOOTSTEPS  OF  THE  BRONTES 

Vain  are  the  thousand  creeds 
That  move  men's  hearts  :  unutterably  vain  ; 

Worthless  as  withered  weeds, 
Or  idle  froth  amid  the  boundless  main. 

To  waken  doubt  in  one, 
Holding  so  fast  by  Thine  infinity ; 

So  surely  anchored  on 
The  steadfast  rock  of  immortality. 

With  wide-embracing  love 
Thy  spirit  animates  eternal  years, 

Pervades  and  broods  above, 
Changes,  sustains,  dissolves,  creates  and  rears. 

Though  earth  and  man  were  gone, 
And  suns  and  universes  ceased  to  be, 

And  Thou  wert  left  alone, 
Every  existence  would  exist  in  Thee. 

There  is  not  room  for  Death, 
Nor  atom  nor  his  might  could  render  void  ; 

Thou— THOU  art  Being  and  Breath, 
And  what  Thou  art  may  never  be  destroyed." 

Much  as  Charlotte  felt  the  loss,  she  tried  to  be  resigned. 
"  Emily  suffers  no  more  from  pain  or  weakness  now.  She  will 
never  suffer  more  in  this  world.  .  .  .  There  is  no  Emily  in  time 
or  on  earth  now.  Yesterday  we  put  her  poor,  wasted,  mortal 
frame  quietly  under  the  church  pavement.  We  are  very  calm 
at  present.  Why  should  we  be  otherwise  ?  The  anguish  of 
seeing  her  suffer  is  over  ;  the  spectacle  of  the  pains  of  death 
is  gone  by ;  the  funeral  day  is  past.  We  feel  she  is  at 
peace.  No  need  now  to  tremble  for  the  hard  frost  and  the  keen 
wind.  Emily  does  not  feel  them.  She  died  in  a  time  of  pro- 
mise. We  saw  her  taken  from  life  in  its  prime.  But  it  is 
God's  will,  and  the  place  where  she  is  gone  is  better  than  that 
she  has  left."  Poor  Charlotte  !  left  with  delicate  Anne  to 
struggle  through  that  hard  winter  of  1848-1849. 


CHAPTER  XXVI 

SHIRLEY 

1848-1849 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE'S  preparations  for  writing  the  story — Difficulties 
in  her  way — The  curates  in  Shirley — Charlotte  Bronte  and  Mr. 
A.  B.  Nicholls — Characters  in  the  novel — Writing  of  the  novel 
laid  aside  owing  to  Anne  Bronte" s  death — The  story  continued  and 
completed — Reception  of  Shirley — Mrs.  Gaskell's  first  letter  to 
Charlotte  Bronte — The  curates  in  the  story  recognised  and  defended. 

CHARLOTTE  BRONTE  commenced  Shirley  in  the  spring  of 
1848,  after  having  fixed  on  a  subj  ect.  Mr.  Butterfield  of  Keighley 
said  she  had  asked  his  opinion  about  writing  a  novel  based 
on  the  Chartist  movement,  but  he  dissuaded  her,  and  then, 
possibly  at  the  suggestion  of  her  father,  she  gathered  all  the 
information  she  could  on  the  Luddites,  obtaining  the  loan  of 
old  copies  of  the  Leeds  Mercury  for  1812,  '13  and  '14,  and 
taking  notes,  as  well  as  getting  information  from  her  father, 
her  Birstall  and  Gomersal  friends,  and  the  Wooler  family  at 
Dewsbury.  Mr.  Bronte,  Miss  Wooler  and  the  Nusseys  took 
the  side  of  the  masters,  being  Tories  and  staunch  church 
folk.  The  Taylors  of  Gomersal  were  Nonconformists  and 
Radicals,  and  took  the  side  of  the  people. 

Shirley  was  the  book  that  was  written  on  the  rebound  of  the 
popularity  of  Jane  Eyre  :  the  success,  in  spite  of  some  scathing 
reviews,  had  given  Charlotte  a  great  zest  for  her  work  and  a 
desire  to  excel,  but  when  she  exerted  herself  most  she  seemed 
to  please  least.  She  had  fixed  on  Hollows  Mill  for  the  title  ; 
later  she  hesitated  between  Fieldhead  and  Shirley,  and  her 
publishers  decided  on  Shirley. 

It  was  a  happy  thought  to  immortalise  her  sister,  but,  by 
the  time  twenty-three  chapters  had  been  written,  the  old 
parsonage  was  full  of  trouble  :  Branwell  was  very  ill  and  had 
become  a  slave  to  opiu